Airlines Accuse Airports Of Seeking "Easy Funding Source"
In letters this month to the
Co-Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation and members of the House Transportation &
Infrastructure Committee, 13 aviation associations urged Senate
action to allow an increase in the capped Passenger Facility
Charge (PFC) they contend will reduce passenger delays and
inconvenience and provide airports with a "critical" funding
PFCs are local fees used by airports to build for safety,
security and capacity projects, including new runways, taxiways and
terminals to meet passenger needs, according to the Airports
Council International-North America (ACI-NA).
Led by the ACI-NA, the 13 aviation associations include Airports
Council International-North America, American Association of
Airport Executives, National League of Cities, National Association
of Counties, National Association of State Aviation
Officials, Airport Consultants Council, National Air Transportation
Association, Associated General Contractors of America, American
Association of State Highway and American Society of Transportation
Officials, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Road &
Transportation Builders Association, American Council of
Engineering Companies and National Stone, Sand and Gravel
The fee has been capped at $4.50 since 2000 and airports argue
the requested increase is necessary to keep up with rising
construction material costs and inflation in general.
"Increasing the $4.50 cap is important now because airports need
to plan to increase capacity to accommodate the 1 billion
passengers that are expected to travel in the next 10 years," said
Deborah McElroy of the ACI-NA.
Airlines contend the airports just want an easy funding source
that won't be too obvious to the public.
"We believe the motivation behind increasing the PFC is the
desire for airports to spend money without a lot of oversight,"
said John Meenan, executive vice president of the Air Transport
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) believes this is a growing issue in
Congress and sides with the airports. "It does need to be lifted.
Not eliminated, but lifted."
Meenan cites a recent ACI-NA capital needs survey that projected
$87.4 billion in airport projects would be needed through 2011
which, he says, indicates airports have failed to identify their
"must-fund" projects, according to The Hill.
The airport side fired back saying the airlines are only
opposing the fee increase because they fear competition. If the
airports had more money, they could build more gates and runways
attracting more carriers.
"Airlines have always argued they'd like to have more control
over which projects get built at which airports with PFC dollars,"
said Kirk Shaffer, the FAA's Associate Administrator for
The FAA sided with airports when it included a PFC cap increase
to $6, as opposed the ACI-NA's request of $7.50, in a
reauthorization provision. But Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and
Trent Lott (R-MS) rejected that proposal when drafting their
reauthorization bill, which was approved earlier this month. Their
version allows six airports to charge unlimited PFCs.
"While we're disappointed that the Senate bill didn't include an
increase in the PFC ceiling, we've been very pleased with
subsequent discussions with committee members and staff about
potential consideration in conference," McElroy said.
This skirmish is just one of many that have to be resolved
before a new FAA reauthorization bill can be approved.
Another aspect to be considered in this battle is political
contributions. What bearing this has, if any, remains to be seen.
The ACI-NA's political action committee has offered two
contributions this year of $1,000 each to Rockefeller and
The American Association of Airport Executives PAC ponied up
$14,000 in contributions; PACs of commercial airlines have spent
more than $154,000 in the House and Senate.