Surveys show that Americans appreciate the value of their local airports in meeting air service needs and generating economic commerce.  However, Americans are unaware how airports operate, are funded, and plan for the future. Here are some less-understood facts about commercial airports:

America’s airports generate billions of dollars in economic activity and support millions of stable, good-paying jobs.

  • “Airports Inc.” A total of 1.2 million people work at America’s commercial airports. All told, 9.6 million have jobs because of these airports – these are big numbers. The number of people who actually work at the airport is second only to Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private-sector employer at 1.3 million people. 1
  • Growing payroll. The 9.6 million Americans whose jobs are tied to commercial airports take home a whopping $358 billion in annual pay.
  • Airports: a GDP colossus. America’s commercial airports account for more than 7 percent of national GDP and support more than 6 percent of the country’s work force. 2

Having a vibrant and efficient airport is essential when trying to attract new businesses and operations to America’s communities.

  • Americans value what airports bring home. Surveys show Americans view their hometown airport as more important than other transportation services to their local economy.
  • Airports are business magnets. Economic developers consider airports and airport services vital to generating local economic growth. In fact, airport directors are key members of local economic planning and recruitment teams around the country.
  • Airports are part of the community. Surveys show Americans want their local leaders making funding and operations decisions that affect their local airport, and impact their community. 3

America’s airports are largely self-sustaining and do not drain precious local tax dollars away from other important government services.

  • Airports are locally owned and operated. All but one U.S. commercial airport are owned and operated by public entities, including local, regional or state authorities with the power to issue bonds to finance some of their capital needs.
  • Airports are landlords. Airport operations are largely self-sustaining – rent, fees and other charges are assessed to businesses that operate at the airport, including airlines.
  • Airports are largely funded by those who use them.  The vast majority of airport revenues come from fees paid by passengers using the airport, landing fees and space rental fees paid by airlines, parking charges and sales of food and goods at the airport.  Though not well understood by many Americans, commercial airports receive almost no taxpayer-funded support from state or local sources. Federal grants that help pay for airport construction projects come from a portion of the travel taxes paid  when you buy an airline ticket or ship a package and fuel taxes paid by general aviation. 4

America’s airports require ongoing improvements, greater investments, and more authority to meet the nation’s growing aviation needs.

  • Airports expect more travelers. Industry and federal forecasts indicate that domestic passenger travel will grow from the current level of 713 million to more than 1 billion enplanements over the fifteen years. 5
  • Airports must grow, invest and expand for the future.  More than $71.3 billion in documented infrastructure projects – runways, terminals and other facilities – are needed by 2017 to ensure airports are able to meet this new demand for passenger travel, cargo loadings and other activity through the early 2020s, based on the long lead times needed for airport improvements. Planning, permitting, and construction can take five to eight years for a terminal and more than 10 years for a runway. 6
  • Airports face looming investment, funding crisis. The current federal funding system does not provide adequate resources for airports, or the long-term investment vision to meet future needs.


2 Economic Impact of Commercial Aviation in 2014, CDM Smith

3 ACI-NA 2011 Survey