Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) president and CEO Kevin M Burke joined the directors of nine American airports for a White House meeting with key administration officials to discuss measures already underway to protect the traveling public and airport employees from the spread of COVID-19 and the economic impact from the sharp drop in air travel.
“North American airports responded swiftly to contain the spread of COVID-19 and continue to take aggressive steps to protect everyone traveling through their facilities,” Burke said. “However, the abrupt decline in air travel resulting from this outbreak will cost US airports at least US $3.7bn this year, and possibly more as people continue to cancel their travel plans. This unexpected shortfall will strain airport operating budgets and potentially disrupt the funding of infrastructure projects already underway.
“We appreciate the opportunity to meet with top administration officials to discuss our coordinated efforts to protect people from COVID-19 and explain how this outbreak will constrain airport budgets moving forward,” Burke continued. “We are grateful for the White House’s leadership on this critical public health and economic issue, and we will continue to work closely with all relevant government agencies and public-health officials to ensure the health and safety of the traveling public and anyone who works in, or passes through, an airport.”
ACI-NA’s estimated losses of US$3.7bn for commercial US airports in calendar year 2020 does not, the organization admitted, include the impact from the recently announced travel restrictions from Europe. Therefore, this figure is likely to increase.
The current estimate is based on the following elements: an expected decline in passenger enplanements of 100 million during the first half of 2020 and 126 million for the full year; an expected US$2.5bn fall in airport revenue over the same period, and US$3.2bn over the rest of the year; and a fall of almost US$500m in the 2020 collection of the Passenger Facility Charge, an important source of funding for US commercial airports.
This forecast comes as the total outstanding debt for US commercial airports stands at roughly US$100bn. US airports also face greater operating expenses due to increases in custodial costs associated with more frequent cleaning of public areas and restrooms, more and upgraded supplies, extra shifts and staffing, additional hand sanitizers in airport public areas for passengers and employees, and additional education and training for airport employees and contractors.