Airport Policy and Security News #106

Airport Policy News

Airport Policy and Security News #106

TSA screening failures raise major questions; Good news/bad news on airport capacity

In this issue:

TSA Screening Failures Raise Major Questions

The results of recent DHS Inspector General “Red Team” testing of passenger checkpoints were so bad that DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson dumped TSA’s Acting Administrator and called for major revisions in screening operating procedures. Because the IG report apparently reveals major vulnerabilities in current operations, it’s understandable that it remains classified. But with checkpoint screeners having failed 67 of 70 tests, Congress’s Homeland Security Committees need to ask some very hard questions of DHS and TSA in coming months.

We should have seen this coming, based on previous reports from the DHS Office of Inspector General. Last September it released a one-page “Spotlight” report-basically an unclassified summary of a report called “Vulnerabilities Exist in TSA’s Checked Baggage Screening Operations.” (OIG-14-142, September 2014) It reports on Red Team operations at an undisclosed number of airports not at passenger checkpoints but on checked baggage screening operations. The summary states, “We identified vulnerabilities in this area caused by human and technology-based failures. We also determined that TSA does not have a process in place to assess or identify the cause for equipment-based test failures or the capability to independently assess whether deployed explosive detection systems are operating at the correct detection standards.” It also reports that having spent $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment since 2009, “Despite that investment, TSA has not improved checked baggage screening since our last report in 2009.”

A more detailed report on all airport screening equipment-passenger and checked baggage-came out just last month, titled “The Transportation Security Administration Does Not Properly Manage Its Airport Screening Maintenance Program.” (OIG-15-86, May 6, 2015) It found that “Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventive maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use.” This report also cites a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from July 2006 (GAO-06-795) which found that TSA “did not have policies and procedures requiring documentation for the review of contractor-submitted performance data,” nor did it have “reasonable assurance that contractors were performing as required.” That was nine years ago. The May 6th DHS report finds that today “Neither GAO nor TSA could provide documentation and details about the actions taken [or not]” in response to those 2006 findings.

In other words, one possible cause of at least some of the failures documented by the DHS OIG Red Teams on baggage screening (last fall) and passenger checkpoint screening (this spring) is that some of the expensive body scanners and EDS machines may not be working properly-and the screeners operating them have no way to know this.

Another probable cause, of course, is that managing checkpoints and EDS machines hour after hour, day after day, is incredibly boring, especially when screeners virtually never catch anyone with malicious intent, which might keep their interest level high. DHS Inspector General John Roth told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on May 15th that screeners “spend long hours performing tedious tasks that require constant vigilance,” but his Red Teams “repeatedly found that human error-often a simple failure to follow protocol-poses significant vulnerabilities.” Long-time TSA critic Rep. John Mica (R, FL) said, “This [Red Team] report is an indictment of the failure of the TSA. Not just in one area, but in almost every area of their functions.” Though invited, TSA did not send a witness to that hearing.

Thanks to the diligent work of GAO and the DHS Inspector General, we know there are serious management failures at TSA. Recommendations get made, especially after bursts of negative publicity, but nothing much seems to change. This looks to me like a classic example of low-performance bureaucracy at work, gradually expanding its functions (scope creep) while failing to be accountable for results. It also reflects the conflict built into TSA from the outset: it is both the aviation security regulator and the provider of a large portion of airport security services.

A long-proven remedy for this kind of government failure is competitive contracting. When a properly qualified company is selected to perform certain tasks, if it fails to perform adequately, the ultimate remedy is to cancel the contract. Airports already have the right, by the terms of the 2001 Aviation & Transportation Security Act that created TSA, to opt out of TSA-provided passenger and baggage screening, replacing it with TSA-approved security contractors. But until now, fewer than two dozen airports have done so.

In their classified briefings on these TSA baggage and checkpoint screening failures, the relevant congressional committees should find out if any of the Red Team tests included airports with contract screening under TSA’s Screening Partnership Program. Screening companies with dangerously poor performance should have their contracts cancelled-but we can’t cancel TSA as the dominant screening operator. Only Congress can do that, by changing the law to remove the agency from screening operations, thereby ending its failure to self-regulate those operations.

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Good News and Bad News on Airport Capacity

Early this year the FAA issued its third major report on airport capacity needs, under its ongoing Future Airport Capacity Task; hence the report is known as FACT3. These reports are a joint effort of several offices within FAA and MITRE Corporation’s Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD). FACT1 was released in 2004 and FACT2 in 2007.

FACT1 presented a pretty bleak projection. Though finding only five capacity constrained airports as of 2004, large numbers were projected to reach that state by 2013 and 41 by 2020-although some of those would escape that fate in each case if all proposed improvements actually got implemented. When FACT2 appeared in 2007, the picture for 2025 was somewhat better, with 16 airports showing up as unconstrained, and about half the rest potentially unconstrained if all proposed improvements got done. But that was before the Great Recession.

The new FACT3 reflects a reset in projected growth of flight operations, taking into account the years of stagnation and then a resumed uptrend at a lower growth rate, as well as the gradual upsizing of airline fleets (e.g., replacement of 50-seat regional jets by larger RJs and some narrow-body planes) and the concentration of the legacy carriers into fewer major hubs. FACT3 now focuses just on 30 core airports, rather than the 40+ in previous versions.

The good news is that since 2000 U.S. airports have added 18 new runways and extended seven others, all at busy hub airports. Taking these improvements into account, FACT3 projects only 5 or 6 capacity-constrained airports by 2020, with another 7 possible by 2030. There is hope for long-congested Philadelphia International, if its new parallel runway project gets built, and Fort Lauderdale looks much-improved due to last year’s opening of its greatly expanded south runway. Chicago O’Hare also looks promising, if the remainder of its runway improvements are completed.

The not so good news is potential capacity constraint at Atlanta, Charlotte, and Houston, though all three are studying additional runways. The most serious cases in 2030 are the perennial problems of JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, plus San Francisco. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is at least studying the possibility of runway additions-for a long time politically unthinkable, but addressed seriously in a major study several years ago by the well-respected Regional Plan Association. SFO, however, after the resounding defeat last decade of a proposed runway expansion into the Bay, seems resigned to making do with its existing runways, with some throughput increases due to various NextGen technologies.

And here is where the FACT3 report could have exerted more leadership, of the kind it does in championing the addition of more runways. For cases like SFO and probably LGA, where the likelihood of actually laying down more concrete is very small, the best way to deal with demand well in excess of capacity is runway pricing. And for cases like EWR and JFK, where any runway additions would be very expensive, runway pricing could generate significant new revenue streams to help pay debt service on new revenue bonds for that purpose. The economists at FAA and DOT know this, but their knowledge still has not made its way into any of these reports. FACT3 does contain a brief mention (without explanation) of “demand management” in its discussion of cases like LGA and SFO (p. 24). Perhaps that is progress, but it’s pretty small beer.

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PFC Battle Gets More Interesting

As Congress gears up for this year’s FAA reauthorization bill, the perennial battle over passenger facility charges (PFCs) looked like it would be the same-old same-old: airlines saying “Hell, no” to any increase and airport groups calling for a large increase in the federal cap on these local user charges for airport improvements. But that’s not the way it’s shaping up.

To begin with, the airlines’ historic portrayal of any increase in the PFC cap as a “large federal tax increase” no longer carries much weight with conservative groups. Thus far, only Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform is taking this position. Supporting PFCs as a local user charge are Breitbart.com’s Rich Tucker, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Heritage Foundation’s Town Hall, and the Tax Foundation. The latter’s May 11th news release cited its new study criticizing the federal AIP grant program and arguing that locally determined PFCs are a better way to pay for airport improvements.

From the other end of the political spectrum, just this week a union representing about 30,000 airport employees, UNITE HERE, launched its Campaign for On-Time Flights urging airline passengers to support increased airport investment via increased airport-specific PFCs.

Also this week came a detailed proposal from the U.S. Travel Association calling for major changes in U.S. aviation infrastructure funding. Scrapped would be five existing aviation taxes:

  • Domestic ticket tax
  • International arrivals and departure tax
  • Domestic commercial fuel tax
  • The tax on frequent flyer awards
  • The tax on flights between the lower 48 states and Alaska or Hawaii.

In exchange, the ATC system would be shifted to fees and charges, as in just about every other country in the world. Large airports would no longer be eligible for AIP entitlement grants. And the PFC cap would be increased to $8.50 and thereafter adjusted for inflation each year.

Those changes are broadly consistent with a white paper released last month by consulting firm ICF, the second in a series of three dealing with FAA reauthorization. “Previous ticket taxes, including the excise tax, international arrivals tax, cargo tax, and fuel tax, would all go away as payment for air traffic becomes a B2B transaction. Customers, including the airlines, would gain a seat at the governing table for a new air traffic organization, enabling them to help in defining the requirements for a new air traffic system and craft equitable ways to pay for the services.” It specifically calls for a trade-off of an increased PFC as an offset to lower AIP funding, within this overall context. It also suggested that the current $4.00 segment fee be retained as sufficient to pay for a recalibrated AIP, and suggests that at $5.00 this fee could also cover FAA’s safety regulatory programs, if continued general fund support for them appears uncertain.

Have these proposals affected the positions of airports and airlines? In a release dated May 18th, the AAAE/ACI-NA coalition called Airports United acknowledged that a debate over fundamental FAA reform is “beginning in earnest,” and noted that the leaders of these two associations sent a letter to Capitol Hill in April asking that any ATC reform package include the following:

  • An airports trust fund dedicated exclusively to funding airport improvements;
  • A system of “aviation taxes and/or segment fees to support the trust fund”;
  • Enough trust fund revenue to support AIP funding at FY 2015 levels or higher; and,
  • Continued AIP eligibility for airports of all size.

Needless to say, Airports United continues to advocate an $8.50 PFC cap.

What about the airlines? Last year it had appeared that the Airlines for America (A4A) advocacy of separating the Air Traffic Organization from FAA and making it self-supporting from ATC fees and charges was conditioned on abolishing all existing federal aviation excise taxes-which would have left AIP funding in question. That turns out to be incorrect. What A4A actually favors is that the total amount paid by airlines in ATC fees plus any remaining aviation taxes (e.g., for AIP) be no higher than what airlines today pay via the whole array of current aviation excise taxes. A recent analysis prepared for A4A by an outside consultant used FY 2014 budget numbers and assumed ATC user fees for the new, self-supporting ATO, user taxes for a portion of AIP, and general fund support for FAA safety and miscellaneous functions and the remainder of AIP.

While the above airport and airline positions are not the same, to me they suggest room for serious discussion and horse-trading, since both stakeholder groups have a real interest in preventing aviation infrastructure investment from being held hostage to ongoing federal budget crises.

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Perimeter Security Still Getting Short Shrift

Since 2004, there have been at least 268 breaches of airport perimeters-move than two dozen per year-according to an investigation by Associated Press that was released in April. AP compiled the information from the 30 busiest U.S. airports via public records requests, news archives, and interviews. Their findings include:

  • Of the 268 breaches, at least 44 times the intruders got as far as runways, taxiways, or gate areas, and in five case actually boarded an airliner.
  • Just seven of the 30 airports accounted for more than half the breaches-San Francisco (37), Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Jose, Miami, and Tampa.
  • There were more than 30 breaches in each of 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
  • Few airports would disclose how long it took to catch the intruder-and some were never apprehended.

It turns out that although airports are required to report perimeter breaches to TSA, the Government Accountability Office found, in a 2009 report, that not all such incidents are reported. A 2011 TSA report that AP says was shared with a congressional committee reported 1,388 perimeter breaches during the 10 years between 2001 and 2010-an average of 139 per year-more than five times the rate AP was able to identify in its research.

None of the incidents tracked by AP-and none that have been publicly reported-involve anyone with sabotage or terrorism intent. But the relatively large number of perimeter breaches suggests that such persons would stand a chance of getting to aircraft or terminals through this back door approach, rather than going through the front door, via passenger checkpoints where TSA has concentrated the vast bulk of its capital and operating costs.

It’s not clear whether beefing up perimeter security would be cost-effective. Estimates are that since 9/11, U.S. airports have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on improved fencing, video surveillance, and staffed entry gates. No U.S. airport has anything approaching the perimeter security of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport-but none faces anything like the war-zone security threats faced by Israel.

But the relative neglect of perimeter security, like the relative neglect of airport employee security, reflects the fragmented approach to airport security fostered by creation of the TSA as the nation’s aviation security regulator and screening operator. In most European countries, all of airport security is the responsibility of the airport, under regulatory oversight from the national government. That makes for a more-integrated approach, with a single point of responsibility for all aspects of security-screening, access control, lobby areas, parking, and airfield perimeter. Shifting to that approach requires a fundamental rethinking of TSA’s role.

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Does Airport Privatization Have a U.S. Future?

The 2015 edition of Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report includes a chapter on aviation infrastructure, reviewing global and U.S. developments in privatization, corporatization, and public-private partnerships during 2014. It covers airport privatization trends, air traffic control corporatization, and outsourced airport security operations. (http://reason.org/news/show/apr-2015-air-transportation)

In compiling the section on airport privatization, I am always struck by the huge disparity between the major, ongoing trend of airport privatization and public-private partnerships (P3s) in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and the dearth of privatization in this country. For example, in a table of the world’s largest (by revenue) airport groups compiled by Airline Business, the 40 of those that are privatized (in whole or in part) account for 50.5% of the revenue of the entire top 100. A question I get fairly often is why this global trend has gotten so little traction in the United States.

That question was put to the Government Accountability Office last year, and GAO’s answer was released in November 2014: “Airport Privatization: Limited Interest Despite FAA’s Pilot Program” (GAO-15-42). I was one of 42 aviation stakeholders and subject-matter experts interviewed by the GAO team, and I think the report does a pretty good job of answering the question. Although there have been 10 applications to the FAA pilot program over the years, only two resulted in actual privatizations: Stewart Airport in New York and San Juan International in Puerto Rico. Only one application is currently pending: Airglades Airport in Florida.

One reason for privatization’s greater appeal overseas is that hardly any other countries provide for tax-exempt bonds to be issued for infrastructure by public-sector entities. So airports seeking to finance large-scale capital investments (runways, terminals, etc.) have to do so at taxable bond rates-so shifting to a private finance approach does not carry a big interest-rate penalty. (Equity investment, though, does require a higher return, but the potential benefit is more efficient and businesslike management in exchange for that higher return.) Related to this, under current U.S. tax law it is difficult or impossible for a public-sector airport’s existing tax-exempt bonds to be taken over by a for-profit airport company. Hence, the need to defease or pay off existing bonds adds another complication to a U.S. airport privatization.

Another difference, not mentioned by GAO, is that many developed-country airports have long-since been corporatized, so in those cases the transition to investor ownership is not as drastic as such a change would be here. For example, if you look at the financial statements of a corporatized airport in Europe (e.g., Amsterdam Schiphol), you will see that it pays ordinary corporate income taxes like any other business, and in some countries a corporatized airport may also pay property taxes like other businesses. When such an airport is privatized, those tax costs would continue, rather than being a drastic new expense, as would be the case here (though in the proposed privatization of Chicago Midway, the City of Chicago got legislation enacted to exempt the airport from property taxes if the privatization went through).

A third difference, also not explained in the GAO report, is that many U.S. airports still operate under residual-cost agreements with their principal airlines (anchor tenants). Under those agreements, airline fees and charges are adjusted every year so as to cover only the residual costs of operating the airport-after taking into account all non-airline revenue. In exchange, those anchor tenants generally get veto power over airport expansions that would allow significant entry by competitors. By contrast, corporatized and privatized airports use “compensatory” agreements with airlines, in which the latter pay negotiated rates for landing, parking, and space rental irrespective of the amount of non-airline revenue. What has changed in recent decades is airline realization that under a residual-cost agreement, it is difficult to forecast the airline’s future airport costs. That factor appeared to have played a significant role in airlines’ agreement to both the Midway and San Juan privatization deals, enabling predictable future airport costs for several decades into the future.

GAO reviews several examples of P3 arrangements, such as the one just agreed to for the replacement of LaGuardia’s central terminal, the P3 deal that led to the privately developed airport in Branson, MO, and the recent P3 arrangements to manage and make improvements to the airport at Gary, IN. None of these required the government airport owner to take part in the FAA pilot program, since none involved net airport revenue going off the airport.

The final portion of the GAO report summarizes stakeholder views on lessons learned from airport privatization and the FAA pilot program. To make the pilot program more attractive-both to investors and to current airport owners-the following were suggested:

  • Ensure that the current airport owner conducts thorough due diligence before embarking on privatization;
  • Create a transparent privatization process;
  • Involve all stakeholders in the privatization process;
  • Reduce or eliminate the airline veto power over privatization agreements;
  • Reduce uncertainty and clarify the federal rules;
  • Reduce complex federal requirements to get to approval via the pilot program-e.g., making it automatic that previous federal grant funds do not have to be returned to the Treasury in the event of privatization (which now requires a waiver).

Those suggestions make sense to me. Streamlining the pilot program to make it more attractive and easier to use would be wise, because the demand for it may well increase in coming years. That could come about as numerous city and state governments face enormous pressures to reduce massive unfunded liabilities in their employee pension systems. Selling or long-term leasing of assets like airports could be an important part of addressing this need.

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Refine PreCheck, Says Bipartisan House Bill

In the previous issue of this newsletter, I wrote about TSA’s poorly justified checkpoint programs called “Managed Inclusion” and “Automated Risk Assessment,” under which passengers who have not been vetted as PreCheck members or one of several Customs & Border Protection trusted traveler programs (e.g., Global Entry) are judged on-the-spot by TSA screeners to be low-risk enough to be shifted into PreCheck lanes. I urged that Congress ban such risky practices.

So I’m pleased to report that a bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House to do just that. The Securing Expedited Screening Act (HR 2127) was introduced by Rep. John Katko (R, NY), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D, MS), and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D, NY) in late April. Katko chairs the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Transportation Security, on which Rice also serves. Thompson is the ranking Democrat on the full Homeland Security Committee.

The bill would restrict expedited screening in PreCheck lanes to members of PreCheck and the other CBP trusted traveler programs, plus members of the military and several other groups defined by TSA as generically low-risk. It also provides that if TSA wants to extend expedited screening to any other groups, it would have to first submit a validated, third-party assessment to Congress.

In a statement supporting the bill, Thompson reiterated his support for PreCheck but made clear that “I do not have confidence that TSA’s use of random, case-by-case, on-site security risk assessments to identify passengers for expedited screening is keeping us secure.” Neither do I, which is why I’m glad to see this legislation introduced and hope for its speedy enactment.

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News Notes

Port Authority Announces LaGuardia PPP Winner. On May 28th, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey announced that the consortium called LaGuardia Gateway Partners has been selected as the developer/operator of the $3.6 billion replacement for LGA’s aging Central Terminal. The consortium is led by Vantage Airport Group, Skanska, and Meridiam, each of which will invest equity in the project, with HOK and Parsons Brinckerhoff as lead designers and Skanska and Walsh Construction as the contractors. LGA Gateway Partners will invest more than $2 billion in the terminal itself, with the Port Authority investing more than another billion in new parking facilities and supporting infrastructure.

NASA Privatizes Moffett Field. On April 1st, Google took over operational control of historic Moffett Field in Silicon Valley, under a $1.16 billion 60-year lease with NASA. The company has agreed to restore three huge but deteriorating airship hangars, which it will use for testing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), high-altitude balloons, and various experimental craft. To operate the two-runway airfield itself, Google has hired AvPORTS, which operates and manages a number of smaller airports under contract.

Toronto Building Airport Express Train. The Province of Ontario is developing the Union-Pearson Express, a fast passenger train linking downtown’s Union Station with Pearson International Airport. The standard one-way fare has been announced as C$27.50, which has led to predictable complaints about the train being only for the wealthy. But there is a considerable value proposition in this new alternative. The Express will make the trip, with just two intermediate stops, in 25 minutes, compared with more than an hour via the existing transit system (two trains plus a shuttle bus) at a fare of just C$3.00. Pre-booked cab/limo fare is C$48, and flat-rate cab is C$55. Moreover, holders of the local Presto multi-system transit card, can use the Express for just C$19.

Greece Will Implement Airport Privatization Agreement. Despite previous populist objections by its new leftist government, Greece announced on May 5th that it will go ahead with the previously agreed privatization of regional airports. Under the agreement negotiated last year, winning bidder Fraport will pay $1.3 billion to operate, improve, and manage the airports for 40 years. The settlement was part of bail-out negotiations between European agencies and the nearly bankrupt Greek government.

Third Frankfurt Terminal Gets Green Light. Fraport will add a third terminal to its Frankfurt International Airport, after having won final government approval for the $3.2 billion project. Its projections show that current facilities will reach their maximum annual passenger capacity of 64 million within the next few years, and could reach 68-73 million by 2021. The first phase of Terminal 3 will add capacity for 14 million annual passengers. In 2014 the airport handled 59.6 million.

San Diego/Tijuana Airport Link by Year-End. The long-planned cross-border pedestrian bridge linking San Diego County to the Tijuana International Airport should be completed by the end of 2015, according to developer Otay Tijuana Joint Venture. The Cross Border Xpress is aimed at making things easier for the two million U.S. air travelers a year who already use the Tijuana airport as an alternative to San Diego International. Those passengers currently must cope with unpredictable delays at vehicular border crossings in order to use Tijuana International. Cross Border Xpress will include its own parking facilities on the U.S side. The company aims to recover its investment via a toll to walk across the bridge, as well as by offering retail and duty-free shopping. Its costs include the facilities for U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s operations in connection with the border crossing.

Lyon and Nice Are Next French Airports to Be Privatized. Assuming pending legislation is enacted by the French parliament, the next two airports to be privatized will be Lyon and Nice. French infrastructure developer/operator Vinci has already announced that it plans to bid for these airports, according to an April 20th Reuters story. Vinci is building a global airports portfolio, in addition to its 8% stake in Aeroports de Paris.

Air Canada Joins PreCheck. Travel Weekly last month reported that PreCheck members heading to Canada from the United States on Air Canada will be able to use PreCheck lanes at any of the 52 U.S. airports served by the airline. Air Canada is the first non-U.S. airline qualified for PreCheck.

Hong Kong to Get Third Runway. The Airport Authority of Hong Kong has received approval to proceed with its planned $18 billion expansion project, adding a third runway on 1,600 acres of reclaimed land and adding taxiway and an expansion of Terminal 2. The financing plan includes bank loans and bonds, as well as the airport’s operating surplus. Debt service will come primarily from increased passenger charges. About 70% of HKIA’s passengers are non-residents, which gives the users-pay concept a fairness advantage over local tax support. After detailed design, construction is planned to begin in 2016, with completion by 2023.

Navi Mumbai Airport Has Four Bidders. The long-awaited new airport for Mumbai has begun pre-development work, and the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO) has announced the names of four pre-qualified bidders for what is expected to be a $2.3 billion P3 project. Financial bids are due in August, with final selection in October.

CAPA Report on LaGuardia Airport. The CAPA Centre for Aviation has released a thoughtful analysis of the problems and future of LGA and the other New York airports, inspired in part by a recent op-ed piece calling for the airport to be torn down and its flight activity (unrealistically) transferred to JFK and Newark. After describing the limitations of these airports, CAPA suggests looking at the former BAA shared monopoly of the London airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted) as a model. Instead of remaining a shared monopoly, those airports have been privatized and must now compete with one another. The report, “New York LaGuardia Airport-Rehabilitate or Close Down? Is Privatisation a More Useful Option?” is available on the organization’s website: http://centreforaviation.com.

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Quotable Quotes

“American aviation’s last line of defense is quickly evaporating. Disgruntled federal air marshals, according to National Review, are leaving the service at an alarming clip-in 2014, an average of 10 agents were reported to have left the service’s Washington, DC office every month. It seems only a matter of time until the U.S. government will be forced to consider a major overhaul of one of its biggest post-Sept. 11 security upgrades. That could be a good thing, but only if Washington is willing to entirely rethink the program. There’s little reason to believe that a Federal Air Marshal Service-which is currently thought to have around 3,500 officers-was ever the best way to protect the more than 26,000 commercial flights that take off in the United States, on average, every day. America’s planes can be made far safer, far more efficiently.”
-Adam Minter, “Stand Down, Sky Police,” Bloomberg View, March 16, 2015

“This is a pretty complicated governance system for an enterprise operation. An efficient, facile (important in a quickly changing world) business operation wants to be streamlined. With City Council, a mayor, a Board of Airport Commissioners, a Chief Administrative Officer, and a Controller’s Office all needing to be involved in various parts of the business, one could certainly say the process of making decisions is anything but streamlined. . . . In order to have a competitive airport that is running like an enterprise, you’ve got to manage it like a business. . . . the body politic needs to lean forward to support what is going to make that enterprise thrive. That is not necessarily what we have in the City of Los Angeles. For a long time, the city government had dealt with the Department of Airports as just any other city department. That’s why it languished and was so far behind other competitive airports in the nation. . . . There are certainly other city-run airports like Chicago, Miami, and Atlanta. But they are not typically the airports regularly populating the top slots of ‘The Best of Airports’ lists. I think the real problem here was that the airport has been a political pawn for decades. That essentially put the airport development in suspended animation for decades. Operational skill diminished, and staff fell into a catatonic state, afraid to do anything while waiting for their leaders to determine what their forward development direction was going to be.”
-Gina Marie Lindsey, “Outgoing LAWA Executive Director Lindsey Assesses Tenure & Challenges,” Metro Investment Report, Jan./Feb. 2015

“We found that some airports were not profitable in the long term, some were underused, and some were not used at all. European air traffic is set to double by 2030. If Europe is going to meet this extra demand, both the [European] Commission and the member states must improve the way they invest in our airports by funding only those which are profitable and for which there is a real investment need.”
-George Pufan, European Court of Auditors, in Cathy Buyck, “EU-Funded Airports Are Not Value for Money, Auditors Say,” Aviation Daily, Dec. 17, 2014

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Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation.