Karen Walker

Girding itself for a battle with the airlines and with Congress, the Airports Council International, North America, will raise its profile in 1998 with hopes of increasing pressure on those who control its members' funding sources.

The ACI is sticking to its controversial claim that US airports need US$60 billion over the next six years just to keep pace with increasing passenger numbers at busy and ageing airports across the US. In 1996, there were 619 million scheduled passengers; by 2008, this is forecast to increase to some 1 billion.

The ACI is calling for federal funding to cope with burgeoning passenger numbers at US airports. The ACI demands that the Airport Improvement Programme be increased from its current $1.7 billion to at least $2 billion annually, and for Congress to lift the $3 cap on the passenger facility charge, one of the major sources of funds. Council president David Plavin says the ACI wants at least to double the amount that airports can claim through PFCs, which currently raise more than $1 billion a year for airport capital programmes.

The ACI faces an uphill battle, however, in its quest for more funds. It managed to get a $240 million hike in the AIP from the 1997 to the 1998 fiscal year, but observers say this will make it even tougher to obtain a further increase in the 1999 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the Air Transport Association, which represents all the major US and Canadian carriers, has made it clear that it feels the $60 billion demand is over the top. More importantly, the airlines fought hard against the introduction of the PFC in 1992 and are likely to baulk at the doubling of that charge.

Source: Airline Business