Annual Privatization Report 2021—Aviation
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Annual Privatization Report

Annual Privatization Report 2021—Aviation

This report examines recent trends and developments in private-sector participation in airports, air traffic control, and airport security.


In the second half of the 20th century, the world’s airports and air traffic control systems were essentially all run by government departments. Two events in 1987 launched an ongoing wave of organizational and government reforms. Those events were the privatization of the British Airports Authority (BAA) and the corporatization of the air traffic control functions of the New Zealand government as Airways New Zealand.

BAA was privatized as a single entity, comprising the three major London airports plus several other United Kingdom (UK) airports. Later government policy decisions led to selling Gatwick, Stansted, and two Scottish airports to new owners. The improved performance of the privatized airports inspired a global wave of airport privatization and long-term public-private partnerships (P3s) that has resulted in over 100 large and medium-sized airports being either sold to investors or long-term leased as revenue-based P3s—in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere. The outlier has been the United States, which has only one P3-leased airport (San Juan International) and a small number of public-private partnership arrangements for airport terminals and other individual facilities.

The corporatization of Airways New Zealand in 1987 also led to a global trend under which more than 60 countries subsequently separated their air traffic control systems from the government’s transport ministry and set them up as self-supporting corporations, regulated for safety at arm’s length from the government. Within the first decade of this trend, the leading ATC providers organized a trade association, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO). Today, CANSO has 93 full members (providers of ATC services) and 89 associate members (mostly supplier companies). It is the air traffic control counterpart of the global organizations for airlines (IATA) and airports (ACI).

This report reviews developments worldwide and in the United States regarding private-sector participation in airports, air traffic control, and airport security. While the United States remains an outlier when it comes to airport and air traffic control organization and governance, interest in airport privatization via long-term P3 leases continues, as does interest in reform of the country’s ATC system.

Annual Privatization Report 2021 — Aviation

Part 1 Overview

Part 2 Airports
2.1 Airport Privatization Overview
2.2 Airport Industry Changes In 2020
2.3 Global Airport Privatizations And P3 Concessions
2.4 U.S. Airport Privatization And Public-Private Partnerships

Part 3 Air Traffic Control
3.1 Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs)
3.2 Global Space-Based Air Traffic Control Surveillance
3.3 Digital Remote Air Traffic Control Towers
3.4 U.S. Air Traffic Control Reform

Part 4 Airport Security
4.1 Contract Screening
4.2 Trusted Traveler

Annual Privatization Report 2021 — Aviation

Other chapters of the 2021 Annual Privatization Report are here and previous editions of the Annual Privatization Report are available here.