ACI-NA Remembers Late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Her Contribution to the Airport Industry

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion of women’s rights and a leader in creating a more equitable system of justice in the United States. Her sharp intellect and fierce commitment paved the way for countless others within the legal and political landscape. Justice Ginsburg exemplified an unmatched devotion to the Constitution and the law, and her loss is one that will continue to be felt for years to come.

While Justice Ginsburg will long be remembered for her tireless advocacy and dedication to issues of justice and equality for marginalized communities, we also recognize the pivotal role she played for the airport industry in securing the rights of airport proprietors.

Just months after Justice Ginsburg was sworn-in to the U.S. Supreme Court, she authored the opinion in Northwest Airlines Inc. v. County of Kent, Michigan, 510 U.S. 353. That opinion, released January 24, 1994, was a pivotal decision within the airport proprietor rights legal cannon.

The Kent County case centered on the financial relationship between airports and the airlines utilizing airport services. Relying on the statutory language of the Anti-Head Tax Act (AHTA), the Supreme Court upheld the right of airports to charge airline fees based on a compensatory rate-setting methodology. The Court also overturned a prior Court of Appeals decision, concluding that airlines have no right to share in airport revenue generated by concessions.

Airlines mounted an immediate legislative effort to overturn the Kent County decision. However, following an airport lobbying counter-effort led by ACI-NA, and in line with Justice Ginsburg’s opinion, Congress affirmed the right of airports to use a compensatory fee methodology, and charged the Department of Transportation (DOT) with developing policies and procedures to determine the reasonableness of those fees. DOT’s Policy Regarding Airport Rates and Charges, originally published in June 21, 1996, and DOT’s fast track procedures for reviewing the reasonableness of airport fees imposed on airlines are a direct result of the Kent County decision and the legislation that followed.

The long-lasting impact of Justice Ginsburg’s 1994 opinion on the financial relationship between airports and airlines continues to be felt today. While we mourn her loss, we are grateful for her contributions to our industry.

# # #


Editor’s note: Special thanks to recently retired ACI-NA General Counsel Tom Devine for contributing to this post.

Americans Are Starting to Fly Again

States around the country are taking their first steps to safely reopen our economy and to start rebuilding a sense of normal life. This Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in North America — a well-deserved benchmark that we’ve made it through a difficult start of this year. This typically marks the beginning of our busy travel season, and while COVID-19 has quieted the typical buzz in our airport terminals and dramatically reduced the crowds, we are finally seeing an uptick in passengers who want to travel again.

Despite the challenges we still face, the Transportation Security Administration expects more than 350,000 people to travel through our airports this Memorial Day weekend. That is a far cry from the 2.7 million air travelers who passed through our airports last Memorial Day weekend, but it nearly doubles our traffic from weeks prior. Airports welcome these early signs of a rebound, and they are ready to help passengers navigate the new normal as we work to adapt to the future of travel together. If you’re traveling this Memorial Day weekend, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Arrive early: Airports around the U.S. have enhanced safety standards and measures for all passengers. This could mean more delays as you travel through security checkpoints. Be sure to arrive early so you are able to make it to your gate and flight on time.
  • Adhere to physical distancing: Remember to keep your physical distance (6 feet) when going through checkpoints, shopping at concessions shops, or standing in line at customer service. By keeping your distance, you can help stop the spread of germs and keep you and others in your party healthy.
  • Wear a facial covering: Many states and local governments as well as airlines are requiring that masks be worn when occupying a public space. Please be sure to bring a facial covering with you to the airport and wear it throughout your duration there. For facial coverings to be worn properly they must cover your nose, mouth, and chin.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout your time while traveling. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away in a trash bin. Avoid touching your face.
  • Be patient: We are all learning these lessons together, so please understand that our dedicated workforce is doing everything in their power to adapt to these new requirements as quickly as possible to ensure the travel experience remains as seamless as it can be in the face of new health and safety guidelines.

As the nation continues to open up and more people begin to travel, implementing these best practices will help to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Our airports are eager to welcome you back.

HAS Continues to Prepare Veterans for Airport Jobs During Coronavirus Crisis

While airport terminals remain quiet because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) health pandemic, airports remain open and operational as essential and critical infrastructure.  Airports might not be welcoming as many passengers these days, but they are still serving local communities by facilitating the movement of health care workers and life saving medical supplies.  Airports also play an increasingly important role in the food supply chain to keep grocery shelves stocked for families.

This vital work is only made possible through the hard work and resolve of essential frontline airport workers.  We applaud their dedication to their communities.  These are the kinds of jobs that can’t be don’t from home.

Because airports continue to operate – and will once again become thriving hubs of activity when travel resumes – they can’t miss a beat in having the right workers in place at the right time.  But how are airports recruiting new workers in an era of social distancing?

Thanks to a proactive approach by the human resources department at Houston Airports System (HAS) to use technology in a creative way, the airport continues its work with Edge4Vets to help military veterans prepare for a career at the airport.  Edge4Vets, a program of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University in New York and supported by Airports Council International – North America and University Aviation Association, is a powerful jobs training program to prepare and connect veterans to jobs that can lead to careers in aviation.

As part of their continuing recruiting process, HAS had planned to offer another in-person workshop training program on April 2 to military veterans. 40 veterans, including Aaron Unpingco, had registered to participate in the workshop.  Through their participation, the veterans would have received personal support from business mentors to identify their strengths from the military, including values and skills, and explore ways to match their skills and interests to airport job openings with HAS and employer partners, including airlines, concessions, security and more.

Once social distancing became the norm because of COVID-19, HAS opted to reconsider its approach and chose to offer the Edge4Vets workshop as an online program instead of cancelling it.  This preserved momentum the program had generated over the past three years to promote veteran employment and keep the pipeline for training military veterans for airport jobs moving forward until better days can come.

Edge4Vets had recently completed putting its full training curriculum into an online platform as a complement to its popular workshop series. The online course gives veterans an opportunity to work through the process to translate their military skills into civilian life at their own pace and learn through a series of videos and exercises how to create a four-part PLAN4SUCCESS for an edge with HR recruiters to get hired.

“Aaron Unpingco had great experience as a platoon leader in the army,” said Tom Murphy, founder of Edge4Vets. “The PLAN4SUCCESS he created using our online training not only showed his strong management skills but also demonstrated how his experience in IT and business administration qualified him for an administrative role at the airport. The HAS recruitment team recognized his potential immediately and suggested several jobs that could fit him.”

To help him match his skills and interests to potential jobs, Edge4Vets enlisted Goodwill industries of Houston to provide follow up support to vets who take the online course. Edge4Vets refers participants to Goodwill after they complete the course and helps them identify potential jobs not only with the airport authority, but with airlines and service companies that participate as program partners.


Aaron Unpingco, a platoon leader in Afghanistan, created a PLAN4SUCCESS and earned his Edge4Vets Certificate using Houston Airports System’s creative approach to taking the Edge4Vets jobs prep program online during the coronavirus health pandemic this spring.

Other airports participating with ACI-NA and local veterans groups in their communities in the Edge4Vets program are looking at applying Houston Airports System’s leadership approach with the online model to their airports.

“I want to be ready,” Unpingco said. “I don’t want to lose this down time during this virus crisis. I want to prepare for a job that can open the world for me.”