Integrating Health Requirements into the Travel Ecosystem


By Sherry Stein, Head of Technology Strategy, SITA

Many countries require landing cards or declaration forms as part of the customs and immigration process; most are distributed as paper forms and collected upon entry at the border. Many forms not only provide valuable contact-tracing information, requiring a traveler to provide a local address while in the country, but can also include health-related disclosures. For instance, “Have you visited a farm during your stay?” helps determine risk of exposure and possible transmission of BSE (mad-cow disease).

Health-related questions on customs & immigration declaration forms have often been an important consideration in obtaining a traveler’s self-reported disclosure for possible exposure for various infectious diseases – such as SARS, MERS, H1N1, and recently, COVID19 – and can help guide efforts in managing epidemic and pandemic response. The importance of health-related processes in travel remains paramount and now more evident than ever.

The digital-shift continues to transform border-management processes, accelerating the ability to coordinate and manage a global response to threats of new epidemics before reaching pandemic-level crisis and, ideally, pre-empt the need to lock down borders.

Health Protect offers a collaborative industry approach to addressing the evolving requirement to include health status checks as part of the travel process – and offers the ability to do so with little disruption to existing industry processes.

  • During airline check-in (mobile or kiosk), the traditional advance passenger process checks can now add accompanying verification of health declaration status, allowing an airline to issue a boarding pass via self-service, without having to visually assess a printed COVID19 test result at the ticket counter.
  • Based on the holistic process, an airline and border-agency are able to make board/no-board decisions that reduce risk of inadmissible travelers being denied entry on arrival or being subject to quarantine or additional testing.

Recently we conducted a trial with SimplyGo in which travelers flying from Germany and Estonia to the United Arab Emirates obtained a negative COVID-19 result via their SimplyGo app before traveling. Integration with the UAE government systems was made possible through the Advance Passenger Processing (APP) platform delivered by SITA. This allowed airlines to offer self-service passenger processing without needing to manually or visually inspect the test results; the verification had already been completed by the UAE border officials.

In April 2021, supporting Sovrin Foundation principles, Aruba introduced the Happy Traveler Card, a self-sovereign identity solution that allowed travelers to Aruba to receive a digital health credential, issued by the Aruba Health Ministry, providing access to services, restaurants and other amenities throughout the island. The solution is based on Linux Foundation’s Cardea code, an open-source ecosystem for exchanging privacy-preserving digital health certificates. A trusted, government-issued digital credential confirms that the traveler’s identity has been correctly verified and linked to a negative test-result. Local service providers (hotels, restaurants, casinos) can rely upon the Happy Traveler Card to grant access to services without access to personal information or having to see the paper test result.  The green check tells them all they need to know.

2021 has seen a growing focus on collaborative initiatives for introducing digital health credentials, or health passports, that can reduce fraud and incorporate digital-identity solution principles. SITA is exploring a collaborative industry approach that integrates the various health-oriented solutions with the existing travel ecosystem.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the travel industry. It has also created an opportunity to accelerate digital progress, re-emphasize the importance of health in borders management and international travel, and creates an opportunity to increase the resilience of our processes should we face another epidemic or global pandemic in the future.

Looking Forward One Year In

By Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, ACI-NA

Now at the one-year milestone of widespread travel and local restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we are reminded that this past year has been incredibly challenging for so many, both personally and professionally.  While so much has changed in our industry as we continue to respond to this prolonged crisis, airports remain fully committed to ensuring the health, safety and security of the traveling public and airport workers.

Although North American airports quickly mobilized to protect travelers and workers, the significant drop in passenger traffic has wiped out record growth in air travel and decimated the airport industry’s financial outlook. In 2019, more than 1.9 billion people traveled through North American airports.  At the start the pandemic, air travel dropped by upwards of 95 percent.  ACI-NA estimates that the pandemic will cost U.S. airports more than $40 billion and Canadian airports more than $5.5 billion — a number that will only grow if the pandemic drags on.

There is no shortage of issues confronting the industry.  Early in the pandemic, ACI-NA created the Airport Industry Recovery Advisory Panel to provide the industry with valuable recommendations on immediate term, medium term and long-term measures to address the public health concerns and assist airports coming out of the pandemic.

These initiatives, ranging from restoring confidence in air travel to implementing a wide variety of mitigation strategies, are fostering a completely new level of collaboration across aviation industry stakeholders.  We each have a role to play, and the value of partnership has never been more important. As we think about the future, airports leaders should remain cognizant of the ever-evolving airport business model.  Our ongoing relationships with airline partners, concessionaires, retailers, service providers, and government regulators are essential to our continued success.

ACI-NA led the charge in an effort secure $20 billion in immediate financial relief for the U.S. airport industry.  We are immensely grateful from the strong support of the U.S. government for airports and their concession partners as they remain open and fully operational though this crisis.

Thanks to the proactive leadership of our team in Ottawa, Canada’s airports received some of the only sector specific COVID support in Canada, with some CAD $1.4 billion through ground rent waivers and deferrals, wage subsidy, and infrastructure funding.  However, as the situation in Canada grows more dire each day, our work continues in Canada to secure addition relief to meaningfully address the financial challenges Canada’s airports face.

One of the silver linings to come out of this pandemic is the rapid innovation and the deployment of new technologies to allow for a seamless – and contactless – passenger experience.  While most of this progress had seemed years away, the pandemic has accelerated this effort to turn our industry’s aspirations into reality.  One thing is clear: the passenger experience will look different than it did before. It is going to be better.

Airports have taken unprecedented actions to limit the spread of COVID-19.  As the eternal optimist, I am confident there is a light at the end of the tunnel and much to be done when we emerge from it. From enhancing airport sustainability and resiliency to taking full advantage of automation and big data to enabling a new generation of aircraft to operate at our airports, we face myriad opportunities to make a difference in the aviation industry. All of these opportunities require a ready and able workforce. We look forward to working with the industry to develop training that will help current airport workers adapt as well as prepare the next generation to make their mark on aviation.

Thank you for the continued trust you place in ACI-NA and the immensely talented team here at your trade association.  I continue to be proud of our team, our members, and the important work we do on behalf of North American airports.

 

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.

Members of Congress Announce Framework for Infrastructure Bill That Includes a PFC Increase

Last week, ACI-NA welcomed the news of an infrastructure investment framework – called the “Moving Forward Framework” – which was announced by a group of Members of Congress, led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The start of the new year represents an important opportunity for Members to announce their top policy priorities and we are pleased that improving airport infrastructure across the U.S. is a high priority for so many Members, as well as the American people.

The Moving Forward Framework calls for raising the federal cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and indexing it for inflation. If enacted into law, a lift on local PFCs would allow airports to fund necessary infrastructure improvements, including repairing aging facilities and making expansions to accommodate record-breaking passenger traffic.

In his remarks, Chairman DeFazio highlighted how airports are in dire need of infrastructure upgrades and addressed the fact that the very same airlines who are comfortable with increasing baggage fees oppose an updated Passenger Facility Charge because they know it will increase airline competition in many airports. You can watch his remarks here.

Immediately following their announcement, ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke thanked the group, and specifically Chairman DeFazio, for their leadership.

“The House Democrats’ infrastructure framework recognizes the time has finally come to increase the woefully outdated PFC,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke. “A long-overdue adjustment to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) will provide the lift America’s airports need to take off into the future. Unlike a $40 bag fee that just pads an airline’s bottom line, a modernized PFC will help our terminally challenged airports make transformative investments in new infrastructure that will improve the passenger experience for millions of travelers. I am particularly thankful for the leadership of Chairman DeFazio, the father of the PFC, for making this one of his top legislative priorities.”

Burke also joined American Association of Airport Executives President and CEO Todd Hauptli and Airport Consultant Council President T.J. Schultz in a joint letter thanking Chairman DeFazio for his leadership on this issue. In the letter they write:

“…we strongly support proposals in the House Democrats’ infrastructure framework that call for raising the federal cap on local PFCs and indexing it for inflation. We are grateful for your leadership. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues to advance legislation that would help airports finance critical projects and repair our nation’s infrastructure.”

Just this month independent research from RAND Corporation confirmed the best way to fix America’s airports is by modernizing the PFC. Further, according to a recent ACI-NA study, U.S. airports face more than $128 billion in infrastructure needs by 2023, with over 56 percent of the needs inside aging terminals. President Trump has repeatedly called for renewed investment in American airports, so we will be listening closely for any references to infrastructure investments in his State of the Union address.

We look forward to working closely with Congress to get this framework over the finish line so that we can finally empower airports to improve their infrastructure and continue to meet the demands of the traveling public.

The Countdown Begins: REAL ID Will Be Required for Air Travel in Exactly One Year

Earlier today, Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) President and CEO Kevin Burke teamed up with travel industry leaders and government officials to urge the traveling public to obtain REAL ID compliant identification.

The REAL ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005, implements a 9/11 Commission recommendation for the Federal Government to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses” as a way to enhance aviation security.

“Ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public is the top priority for airports – and REAL ID is an important component of our efforts,” Burke said. “We are encouraging the public to ensure you have a REAL ID compliant license by October 1st of next year. This will be critical to ensure you are able to travel.”

According to a recent study by the U.S. Travel Association, many Americans may not be aware all Americans will be required to have a REAL ID compliant license in order to board a commercial aircraft beginning on October 1, 2020 – just one year from today.

The purpose of this week’s event held at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC was to encourage the public to obtain proper identification before the rapidly approaching deadline. It also marks the start of a yearlong educational effort by TSA, airports, airlines, and other stakeholders about the importance of obtaining a REAL ID compliant license.

“We are working hard to ensure the public is aware of this fast approaching deadline,” Burke said. “Despite the ongoing efforts to raise awareness, we remain concerned about the small number of travelers who have obtained a REAL ID compliant licenses”

 

 

Some states and airports are already taking advantage of local opportunities to educate travelers. ACI-NA joined with our airline partners and other associations to send a joint letter to each governor of all 50 states and territories, encouraging them to launch public awareness campaigns to more effectively educate residents about REAL ID requirements.

In lieu of a REAL ID compliant license, air passengers are able to use other federally approved identification for air travel, including U.S. passports or Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI identification cards.

Burke was joined by Transportation Security Administration Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell, as well as officials from Airlines for America, the American Association of Airport Executives, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles commissioners.

You can learn more about the importance of REAL ID here. And don’t forget to save the date for October 1, 2020. Act now to ensure you have a REAL ID.

LAX CEO: We Need to Bring the Passenger Facility Charge Back to its Original Buying Power

Last week, Los Angeles World Airports Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint addressed the Washington Aero Club at a lunch event in Washington, D.C. In her speech, Flint described Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) current $14 billion investment project and how it will help to relieve congestion and improve the LAX travel experience for passengers.

She also discussed how airports across the country are using technology to improve efficiency and ease long lines.

Finally, she urged Congress to return the Passenger Facility Charge to its original buying power by updating it to be $8.50. She noted that it’s been two decades since the PFC was updated and that it’s well overdue that we modernize it to keep up with inflation.

Excerpts from her speech are below.  Her full remarks are available here.

Flint on the need to modernize the PFC:

A new level of investment in infrastructure is needed and for airports this can be real by bringing the Passenger Facility Charge to its original buying power.

“It is time. It has been two decades that the PFC has been unchanged even though there have been 26 models of the iPod, which was released the same year. It has been so long that the styles have even come back – parachute pants and tracksuits are back in again.

The ask is to increase the PFC from $4.50 to $8.50 and index it for inflation in the future. That will make a difference for airports of all sizes – large, medium, and small.”

Flint on LAX’s infrastructure projects:

We are making a $14 billion investment in an Automated People Mover train system, roadways, a Consolidated Rent-A-Car facility that will combine the 20 separate facilities that burden our neighborhoods and roadways, a connection to regional rail, and modernizing each terminal.

“And we are beginning the environmental review to improve the airfield, build a new concourse off of Terminal 1, and a new Terminal 9, which requires billions of additional dollars.”

Flint on airports improving efficiency through biometrics:

Back to my 16 year old and her airport expectations. For her, wifi and cellular are like air – as they have become for all of us. Her face is everything.

“I am talking about biometric aircraft boarding gates, self-baggage drop, TSA and CBP screening – all biometrically enabled at LAX today. While privacy and data security must have high bars, the efficiency of biometrics is astounding. We boarded an A380 using biometric facial boarding in 20 minutes.”

Flint on the future of the airport industry:

Airport by airport, working with our partners in airlines and throughout the industry, we need to be excited, energetic and chase the next evolution. We need to push for our airports to be more innovative, sustainable, to be stewards for local communities, to bring the joy and certainty back to air travel, and together get the funding to invest and let our industry shine. At Los Angeles World Airports our vision is Gold Standard Airports … Delivered.  The U.S. deserves that vision for each and every one of our airports.”

Infrastructure Week 2019: 20th Century Airports in a 21st Century World

Today marks the official start to Infrastructure Week 2019, the long-celebrated week each year when the infrastructure community comes together and engages in a broad conversation about the importance of modern infrastructure.  For us, every week is Infrastructure Week (we’re not the first ones to make that joke and we won’t be the last…), but we’re proud to join in and represent airports in such an important dialogue this week.

As part of our participation in Infrastructure Week, ACI-NA will continue to amplify our important message about the need to invest in America’s aging airports.  Beginning today, passengers in airports will have the opportunity to hear directly from ACI-NA on the benefits of an improved and modernized airport system.  Watch by clicking below.

We couldn’t think of a better way to get our message in front of those who stand to benefit the most from the improved passenger experience, increased airline competition and lower airfares, and enhanced safety and security that will come when we meet the nearly $130 billion in infrastructure needs of America’s airports over the next five years.

We are proud to count CNN Airport Network as a valued ACI-NA member and an active participant in our Beyond the Runway Coalition.  CNN Airport Network’s tremendous support for our industry is greatly appreciated as we ramp up our efforts to engage in a broad conversation about the importance of modern airports to local communities.

For the latest on Infrastructure Week, visit the Centerlines NOW blog or following along on social media using #InfrastructureWeek #BuildForTomorrow.

Canada’s Airport Capital Assistance Program Needs Reform – Urgently

By Chris Phelan, Vice President, Industry and Government Affairs, Canadian Airports Council

The Canadian Airports Council has joined with several other Canadian associations that represent local and regional airports to send a national, united message to the government of Canada: Reform the Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) to provide more funding and modern criteria that better matches needs and realities of small airport capital or run the risk of air services declining for Canadians living in small communities.

ACAP was created in 1994 as a companion to the National Airports Policy (NAP), which handed over the operations of the majority of airports from the federal government to private sector airport authorities or in the case of most small airports, local interests. ACAP recognizes that although the intent of the NAP was to ensure that airports would be both self-governing and self-financing, small airports did not have the critical mass of passengers to generate enough funds to pay for capital improvements related to safety. ACAP is intended to fund financial projects related to safety, asset protection and operating cost reduction. Overall, there are approximately 200 regional/local airports in the country that are eligible for ACAP funding.

Fast forward 25 years and ACAP has become an invaluable source of funding for the airports that are eligible for it. But, gaps and issues with the program have not been addressed and are becoming more acute.

In the last quarter century airports have seen air demand – and complexity – soar. Today, Canada’s airports are expected to serve passengers with increasingly diverse needs and must fulfill new safety requirements that have changed and become more complex over time. To provide context, just one runway rehabilitation project covered by ACAP costs about $12 million, almost one-third of the total ACAP funding envelope. Yet ACAP funding has not risen since 2000, nor has the program adapted to the changing air service environment.

While there have been program improvements in recent years, funding has failed to keep pace with demand for ongoing safety and security maintenance. ACAP receives $38.5 million in federal funding a year, an amount that has not changed in 18 years. The funding shortfall is exacerbated by the fact that Canada’s airports also face a host of new regulatory requirements in the coming years that have not been addressed in any way by the government program.

In order to be eligible for ACAP funding an airport must:

  • Not be owned or operated by the federal government;
  • Meet certification requirements; and
  • Offer year-round regularly scheduled commercial passenger service.

Further, in each of the three previous calendar years, the airport must have handled at least 1,000 year-round regularly scheduled commercial passengers, although airports designated as a “Remote Airport” under the NAP, do not need to meet this requirement.

Not all airports are funded equally. ACAP funding is pegged to the level of airport activity. For example, an airport with fewer than 50,000 commercial passengers receives 100 percent funding for projects. That number decreases by increments of 5 percent for every increase of 15,000 passengers. When an airport reaches 525,000 passengers, the funding is listed at 0 percent.

The current categories for ACAP funding are:

  1. Safety-related airside projects such as rehabilitation of runways, taxiways, aprons, associated lighting, visual aids, sand storage sheds, utilities to service eligible items and related site preparation costs, including directly associated environmental costs, aircraft firefighting equipment and equipment shelters necessary to maintain the airport’s level of protection as required by regulation.
  2. Heavy airside mobile equipment and safety-related items such as runway snowblowers, runway snowplows, runway sweepers, spreaders, winter friction testing devices, and heavy airside mobile equipment shelters.
  3. Air terminal building/groundside safety-related considerations such as sprinkler systems, asbestos removal, and barrier-free access.

As it stands, ACAP is underfunded, overly complex, highly prescriptive, suffers from a lack of transparency, and has not kept pace with changes to regulatory and weather safety equipment needs.

Working with its counterparts, Atlantic Canada Airports Association, Airport Management Council of Ontario, Réseau québécois des aéroports, BC Aviation Council, Manitoba Aviation Council and the Saskatchewan Aviation Council, the CAC is working to develop a set of recommendations to the government on how ACAP may be improved. This coalition believes that we are at a critical time for airports. Given the above-mentioned changes, adjustments need to be made to ACAP to make it more responsive and useful to those that rely on the program.

If ACAP funding kept pace with inflation, the annual budget for 2019 would be approximately $56 million.

Unfortunately, even if the government tried to catch up by raising the program level to $56 million to match inflation, ACAP would still be underfunded because new safety requirements will be putting even more pressure on the funding envelope. These new regulations are neither minor nor cheap. They include upgrades to accessibility, changes to the Aerodromes Standards and Recommended Practices and the Accessible Canada Act, as well as changes to Global Reporting Format/Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (GRF/TALPA) and new Runway End Safety Area (RESA) requirements. RESA alone will cost Canada’s small airports at least $165 million to fully implement. The pressure is on ACAP to fund these new initiatives, but it doesn’t have the financial resources or mechanisms in place to handle its existing commitments, let alone these new requirements.

To complicate matters further, airports are facing new challenges that were not even imagined in 1994. These include the impact of climate change, which causes changes in storm patterns and freeze/thaw cycles that place additional strain on equipment. ACAP must stay current with new needs by adopting a new forward-thinking dynamic program design that can account for and adapt to climate and other factors associated with the geographical location of the airport.

Make accessing the program simpler, more transparent and more predictable

Based on member and industry experience with ACAP, the CAC has determined that ACAP criteria need to be modernized. Runway length and passenger volumes are not appropriate measures for equipment requirements. The amount of precipitation should be a factor in determining the size of a plow eligible (or other type equipment) for funding. An airport in southern Ontario has different needs than one in Northern BC, and so forth. One size does not fit all, especially when it relates to transportation infrastructure.

Moreover, the complexity of the application process is a challenge in itself. Airports go through an extensive consultation process with Transport Canada staff regarding needs, eligibility parameters, thresholds and airport conditions and also discuss the likelihood of being considered for funding if a project were submitted. The result is some category level 2 projects and most of category level 3 projects are being pushed further and further into the future.

In fact, in the program’s 25 years of existence, and having funded almost 1000 projects, only 18 of those projects have been category 3. This inequity of funding approvals is now shaping behavior. Recognizing the low probability of receiving funding for a category 3 project, airports are simply not applying for those projects. Ultimately this gives the government a false impression of need – airports are not applying, therefore, there is not demand. Meanwhile, the reverse is true and with changes to accessibility regulation and legislation, this need will only be more pronounced.

While the CAC recognizes that Transport Canada has made efforts to improve the ACAP application process when consulting companies offer services to help airports prepare applications, the process is overly complicated.

The coalition will be conducting its research and developing its recommendations over the coming months. If this year’s federal budget doesn’t address ACAP funding, given the time horizons and realities of the 2019 election cycle, the group is hoping to have its input considered and implemented for Budget 2020.

In the meantime, the CAC will be more visible with our asks of the political parties as they compete for votes in the 2019 election. In fact, one of the main asks of all political parties is to increase funding for small airport infrastructure programs for safety and security.

SLC – Designing for the Future

By Bill Wyatt, Executive Director, Salt Lake City International Airport

I’m often asked why, after a week of retiring from the Port of Portland (PDX), I decided to accept an offer to go back to work as the new executive director of the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

The reason is simple: SLC is building what will be the first new hub airport in the country in the 21st century. We’re not talking a remodel or an expansion, but an entirely new airport. The new airport will secure SLC’s position as a global aviation hub that will serve and grow with the region for decades to come.

As with many airports, SLC is experiencing tremendous passenger growth and operating in facilities that are over-utilized and well past their prime. The history of SLC goes back to 1961, when Terminal 1 first opened. Over the years, we added Terminal 2, additional concourses and an International Terminal. Our newest building is the International Terminal, which was constructed more than 20 years ago.

Our facilities were originally built to accommodate 10 million passengers and, today, SLC is seeing upward of 25 million passengers each year. We have become a thriving hub airport for Delta Air Lines and today are Delta’s fourth largest hub.

Our passengers experience congestion at SLC daily, whether it’s curbside, in the parking garage or when trying to find a seat in gate hold areas and restaurants. Plus, the lack of available gates limit new air service to SLC.

But that will all change the fall of 2020, when the first phase of The New SLC Redevelopment Project opens with a parking garage with double the capacity, one central terminal with 16 security lanes and portions of two new concourses. Once we open the first phase, the process to build the second phase begins with the demolition of current facilities, which allow construction to the east to commence. Come 2025, the entire project will be complete and passengers will travel through an entirely new, modern airport.

The advantage to building a new airport is that you can design for the future. The New SLC will be more efficient and more sustainable. The new concourses are designed in a parallel configuration, which will eliminate aircraft bottlenecks, so airlines can get their planes back in the air faster.

We are also aiming for a LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and plan to achieve this through a variety of ways, such as converting all airline ground service equipment to electric by 2023. The use of natural light will also help to achieve our energy goals.

Those who have arrived at Salt Lake City may have experienced a phenomenon that is unique to our airport and which we are addressing in the new terminal. Thousands of young men and women travel around the world on missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and depart from our airport. SLC is also the place where friends and families come to greet these missionaries when they return home. It’s not unusual to see large gatherings at the luggage carousels with family and friends holding signs welcoming back their loved ones. This also presents a challenge to passengers attempting to get their luggage. In the new terminal, we will have a Meeter-Greeter Room where those waiting for passengers to arrive – whether they be military personnel, missionaries or a winning sports team – can relax in a comfortable setting.

But beyond the brick and mortar, the new airport has been designed to leave a lasting impression on travelers. Art and other elements will provide a sense of place through the use of sandstone, copper colors and native plants. The design incorporates plenty of windows to provide views of the mountains from many vantage points throughout the airport, including from an outdoor deck from Delta’s Sky Club.

Passengers will be wowed by massive art installations, such as The Canyon, which is being integrated on both walls of the airport terminal. The Canyon evokes the Salt Lake City landscape and spans roughly the size of a football field.

An expanded concessions program with 29 retail stores was recently announced and includes a mix of local, regional and national brands, including new brands such as Coach, Frye and Mac. The restaurant program announcement is coming soon and is expected to be just as impressive.

And the good news keeps on coming. The $3.6 billion-plus airport is being built without one cent of local tax payer dollars. For years, SLC was the only large-size, hub airport in the country to be debt free. That has since changed, but the foresight of those planning this project allowed the project to begin with savings. It will all pay off in the end. A recent economic impact study showed the project is contributing approximately $5.5 billion to the local economy.

SLC is currently one of the nation’s most cost-effective airports for airline operations and plans to maintain one of the lowest CPEs in the country for a hub operation.

So you can see why my plans to retire have been put on hold – so that I can be part of this remarkable program that will make traveling through SLC truly unforgettable.

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?