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On the agenda: Investing in airports

Airport profile: Frankfurt and global operator Fraport

Special report: The buying game

Plus: Shopping malls, Future design & Car parking

Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on changing political times and the potential impact they may have on airport development ahead of the Airport Economics & Finance Conference and Exhibition in London.

Politics is one topic you are supposed to avoid talking about at work in a bid to keep the peace, and I must confess that I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment as it can stir up some strong emotions. Having said that, sometimes the issues are just so big it is hard to escape falling in to the trap!

Who, for example, would have thought that more than eight months after the Brexit vote in the UK, heated debates would still be going on in offices, factories, pubs and clubs up and down Britain about the wisdom of leaving the European Union?

While across the pond and around the globe similar conversations are being had about the merits of new US President, Donald Trump, who certainly appears to have divided opinion like no other White House resident in my lifetime.

Will Trump be good for the US aviation industry? Well, he talked the talk at a meeting with airport and airline leaders in early February, promising to change the lack of investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, which he claimed had left the country with “obsolete airports, an obsolete plane system, obsolete trains, and bad roads.”

Indeed, in a promising sounding address to the media on February 9, he said: “Our airports used to be the best, now they are at the bottom of the rung. We want to help you [aviation leaders] realise your goals by rolling back burdensome regulation, lowering the overall tax burden on American businesses and developing our aviation infrastructure.”

Sounds encouraging, and ACI-NA representatives at the meeting that included president and CEO, Kevin Burke; Chicago Department of Aviation commissioner, Ginger Evans; Los Angeles World Airports CEO, Deborah Flint; and executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), Patrick Foye, certainly seemed to like what they heard from the new President.

“We greatly appreciate the President’s persistent, vocal support for building airport infrastructure as a key component of improving the passenger experience, rebuilding our nation, growing our economy, and creating jobs,” said ACI-NA’s Burke.

“During the meeting, the President stated four times that America must modernise and rebuild our airports. We can quickly fund and undertake these much needed infrastructure projects with no federal budget impact by giving airports more control of local investment decisions.

“We estimate that 2.1 million jobs could be created while enhancing the passenger experience simply by removing federal limits on the local user fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge.”

Only time will tell what the reality holds for US airports and for Britain’s airports after Brexit, of course, but both examples just go to show how bigger political events inevitably impact on airports around the world.

Creating the right political, regulatory and economic environment for investment is obviously crucial for any industry, and aviation is no exception, especially as governments look to upgrade key infrastructure to meet growing demand.

In this ‘investing in airports’ themed issue of Airport World you will be able to read about all of the big airport privatisation projects of 2016 and what’s possibly in store for the year ahead.

Also in the spotlight are airport shopping malls; car parking charges; the future of airport design; security innovation; DFW’s cargo master plan; the economic challenges and opportunities faced by airports in today’s volatile geo-political landscape; and Fraport’s global airport portfolio, which includes Frankfurt Airport.

Finally, I look forward to seeing you all at ACI’s first major event of 2017, the annual Airport Economics & Finance Conference and Exhibition in London on March 20-22, where Brexit, among a host of other topics, will be on the agenda.

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