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by Matt Alderton | April 24, 2015
During a special hearing yesterday, titled "FAA Reauthorization: Airport Issues and Infrastructure Financing," the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security examined the funding of airport capital needs, including a proposal to nearly double the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), or airport tax, levied on travelers to fund airport infrastructure improvements.

 Among the witnesses who spoke during the hearing was Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs for airline industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A), who spoke against a PFC increase, arguing that airports already have abundant resources with which to fund air travel infrastructure.

 "Airports across our country are in a very strong financial position, already receiving billions of dollars from passengers and the government alike," Pinkerton said. "In 2013, U.S. airports collected a record $24.5 billion in revenue -- a 52 percent increase on a per passenger basis from 2000 -- including $10 billion in airline rents and fees, $2.8 billion from existing PFCs, $8.2 billion in non-airline revenues, and $3.4 billion from the FAA's Airport Improvement Program. The data clearly shows that projects can easily be done without raising taxes on passengers."

 The U.S. Travel Association, which supports a PFC increase, questioned Pinkerton's testimony in the following statement from Executive Vice President Jonathan Grella:

 "We repeatedly heard two things from the big airlines' representatives: one, there are no infrastructure problems; and two, even if there were, there's plenty of money to fix them. Well, we're living in two different realities, because the rest of the travel community keeps looking at the empirical data and arriving at the exact opposite conclusions. Delays, cancellations, and lack of competition among airlines are literally driving travelers out of the flying market. And the only available revenue streams to address those problems -- federal appropriations and local user fees -- have all but disappeared because of tight budgets and inflation.

 "We do see why the Big Three airlines so vehemently object: infrastructure modernization equals more terminal space for competitors, which equals more choices and better fares and service for consumers.

 "The senators at the hearing asked very good questions that indicated a firm grasp of the realities facing our air travel system. The hearing gave us a glimmer of hope that common sense will win out on fixing our dilapidated aviation infrastructure, not the airlines' bottomless lobbying budgets."