U.S. airports serve more than two million passengers every day. The aviation industry is marked by technologically advanced and economically efficient aircraft, however, the associated aviation infrastructure of airports and air traffic control systems is not keeping up. Congestion at airports is growing; it is expected that 24 of the top 30 major airports may soon experience “Thanksgiving-peak traffic volume” at least one day every week. With a federally mandated cap on how much airports can charge passengers for facility expansion and renovation, airports struggle to keep up with investment needs, creating a $42 billion funding gap between 2016 and 2025.
GAO – NEXTGEN Air Transportation System: FAA Has Made Some Progress in Midterm Implementation, but Ongoing Challenges Limit Expected Benefits, GAO-13-264, April 2013 – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653626.pdf
New, technologically advanced and fuel efficient aircraft are being deployed regularly, however, that tells only half the story of the aviation industry. In the other half, progress at the nation’s airports and in the air traffic control system is slow, as investment has consistently lagged in the past 18 years, unable to keep up with demands of increased traffic and new technologies.
Generally, there are four sources of funding used to finance airport development: airport cash flow; revenue and general obligation bonds; federal/state/local grants, including the Airport Improvement Program (AIP); and Passenger Facilities Charges (PFCs). Under the 2012 FAA reauthorization, AIP received $13.4 billion over four years or approximately $3.35 billion annually funded primarily through airline ticket taxes. The PFC Program allows the collection of PFC fees – federally capped at no more than $4.50 – for every enplaned passenger at commercial airports.
Airport security and the safety of the traveling public is an ongoing challenge for the nation’s aviation enterprise. The needs of additional security to address the threats posed to airports and aircraft have had an impact on the operation of the nation’s aviation system. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) spent $5.6 billion on aviation security in 2015; this does not include the financial burden on airports to accommodate security requirements.
Permanent extension and increase of user fees to adequately fund the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Trust Fund). Such funds should not be used to pay for security costs, but specifically used for airport capacity, air traffic, and airport maintenance and improvement.
Continue the practice that all monies collected from these user fees be deposited in the Trust Fund with budgetary firewalls to eliminate the diversion of transportation revenues from non-airport capacity, air traffic and maintenance and improvement purposes.
Continued and accelerated implementation of the NextGen air traffic control system.
Congress must timely enact multi-year reauthorizations of aviation programs to ensure predictability and stability in airport improvement funding.
Remove the federally-imposed cap on Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) to allow airports a tool to invest in their own facilities.
Funding for security measure must not impact needed infrastructure funding.
Explore innovative third-party funding such as privatization, public private partnerships and others.