Checked Facts: Airports Are Not Taxpayer Funded

Benjamin Franklin said there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.  If there’s one more thing we can be certain of on April 15, it’s the airlines continuing to spread misinformation about how America’s airports are funded.

It is common misconception that airports are funded with taxpayer dollars.  In reality, infrastructure projects at airports in the United States are funded through three key mechanisms: federal grants through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) local user fee, and tenant rents and fees.

No matter how many times the airlines repeat it, the PFC is not tax. The PFC is a local user fee that airports rely on to repair aging facilities, improve aviation safety, improve the passenger experience, create more airline competition to lower airfares, and accommodate rising demand.  With nearly $130 billion in infrastructure needs over the next five years, the PFC is the cheapest and most sustainable option available.

Here’s why:  The PFC empowers those who know the most about the local airport needs, infrastructure investments, and safety upgrades to make the best decisions for the airport while balancing the passenger’s interests. The PFC is collected locally and, unlike other aviation-related fees and taxes, stays local. It never gets passed to Washington, D.C. The PFC is the only funding tool that maximizes this kind of critical local control.  The airlines’ erroneous “tax” argument doesn’t hold water.

Today’s modern conservative movement is diverse and often fractious, so it can be hard to find unanimity on almost any issue. But when it comes to support for the PFC, conservative think tanks and advocacy groups speak with a clear voice in support of this quintessential user fee.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action, Reason Foundation, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, and Citizen Outreach are some of the leading anti-tax and free market organizations that agree the PFC is a local user fee.

User fees represent a better way to pay for infrastructure. Under this system, the people who actually use the airport bear the burden of upkeep and modernization. That is the most fair and equitable way to fund it – passengers who don’t use the airport will never be asked to pay for it. Americans certainly deserve to keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible.  How else would they be able to pay all those exorbitant airline bag fees?

Cheers to 2018: ACI-NA’s Year in Review


Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) strives to advocate for policies and provide services that strengthen the ability of commercial airports to serve their passengers, customers and communities.


2018 has been a busy year. But, it has also been a productive year for our organization as we work to ensure that North American airports operating safely and efficiently. Here are a few highlights from this year.


  • Our newest Economic Impact Study found that U.S. commercial airports are responsible for 11.5 million jobs with a payroll of more than $428 billion. To break that down, the total economic output of U.S. commercial airports exceeds $1.4 trillion — more than 7% of our nation’s GDP.
  • The Canadian Airports Council (CAC) conducted a similar study that found that Canada’s airports provide 194,000 direct jobs, $19 billion to the national GDP and $48 billion in direct economic activity.
  • According to the latest North American Traffic report, passenger traffic grew by nearly 4 percent and cargo traffic increased 7 percent in 2017.
  • These numbers help us make the case in Washington that North America’s airports are indeed powerful economic engines.  In fact, the Beyond the Runway Coalition has grown to nearly 100 members in construction, food and beverage, retail, and tourism and other industries rely on airports to drive economic growth in their local communities.
  • A few months ago, we launched a new website that gives us a platform to better educate and engage with our members, policymakers and the traveling public.
  • In Canada, CAC is launching a multi-faceted marketing campaign to their member airports tell their unique stories to policymakers, industry stakeholders and passengers.
  • On the operations side, we worked with ACI World and staff from an array of airports worldwide, performed 8 Airport Excellence in Safety reviews across the US and Canada—the most of any ACI region.
  • We assisted our member airports in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia in coordinating preparation and immediate recovery from Hurricanes Florence and Michael.
  • Maintaining the safety and security of the traveling public is a top concern for airports. The PS&S Committee continues to participate on the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, providing the TSA Administrator recommendations to mitigate potential insider threats while preserving operational flexibility.
  • Airports in the United States and Canada continue to work with ACI-NA and CAC to better facilitate transnational travel and trade through programs like pre-clearance.
  • The Risk Management Committee has completed a document to help airport risk management units manage contractual insurance compliance.
  • The Air Service committee, which was formed in 2018, has created a work plan for 2019 and has formed four task forces that will be recruiting participants in early 2019. The committee has already taken an active role in planning for JumpStart 2019 in Nashville.
  • International Air Service Program continues to support the ACI World Expert Group on Slots and the effort to create a level playing field for airports in the global allocation of scarce airport capacity. The effort is showing promise with negotiations between ACI and IATA continuing.
  • The Facilitation committee held two best practice tours jointly with the Airlines for America (A4A) Passenger Facilitation Council in 2018, visiting new biometric entry and exit installations at Miami, Orlando and San Diego.
  • The TNC Operations and Related Airport Revenues Working Group is addressing new and evolving issues with TNCs, peer-to-peer car sharing, and the potential deployment of autonomous vehicles.
  • The Human Resource Committee is strengthening their efforts on a variety of programs to develop talent pipelines and future leaders within airports. The Workforce Planning Working Group had identified three focus areas for the committee: Executive Leadership Exchange Program (ELEP), Multi-generational Workforce and an airport career awareness campaign.
  • The Edge4Vets program is continuing to work in partnership with ACI-NA to prepare and adapt the military skills of returning veterans to the civilian airport industry while also creating a related “employer network” of airport stakeholders and partners.
  • The Associates Board has remained engaged in the work ACI-NA is doing. I am pleased to report that 20 candidates put their names forward for the 3 vacancies that were open on the board.


With 2019 on the horizon, we want to keep this momentum going. After all, ACI-NA is only as strong as its members and their active engagement. We look forward to working with you in the New Year.


Happy Holidays!


Kevin Burke

President and CEO


Airports Gobble Up More of the National GDP


Every year, Thanksgiving brings an opportunity for American’s to celebrate and give thanks for what is most valuable to them. ACI-NA has always maintained that airports are valuable economic engines for their local communities and the nation. I’m thankful that still stands true today.

Our latest economic impact study finds that the 493 commercial airports in the U.S. have a collective national output of $1.4 trillion. That equates to a contribution of more than 7 percent to the GDP. What’s more, airports support a total of 11.5 million jobs and create a total payroll of $428 billion.

It’s clear airports are an important piece of the pie when it comes to our economy. But, these numbers also highlight the challenges facing our airports to meet the growing demands of the future.

Last year, more than 1.8 billion passengers arrived at and departed from U.S. airports.  So far, our airports are on pace to surpass last year’s numbers even as we embark on the busy holiday travel season.

Last week, TSA estimated 25 million passengers will travel through airports during the Thanksgiving travel period this year. That’s an increase of 5 percent from 2017.

With the number of passengers on the rise, our airports are at risk at falling. Airports have nearly $100 billion in significant infrastructure needs that threaten their ability to serve their passengers, grow their local economies, and create good paying jobs.

This economic impact study will serve as a staunch reminder to policymakers in local communities and Washington, DC that airports are valuable assets. In fact, it only helps us make our case that we must provide airports with the tools they need to make local infrastructure investment decisions.

I encourage you to join us in sharing the impact of your airport in your community with your policymakers and local partners.  As a collective voice, we can amplify the message that America’s airports need additional infrastructure investments to remain the powerful engines of economic growth they are.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Kevin M. Burke

President and CEO

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA)