During the American Airports Association (AAAE) Conference in Philadelphia, an intimate group of executives gathered for the Global Infrastructure Initiative Philadelphia Roundtable. The robust discussion focused on the airport passenger experience (featuring the powerful Orlando case study), airport and terminal privatization, and what US airports can do to accelerate redevelopment. Below is a recap of the discussion:
- What does a great airport passenger experience look like? The focus was on working with TSA and other stakeholder’s employees to ensure they are bought-in and rallying behind a common goal. Orlando and Disney’s passenger experience is a very good case study on how to do this right.
- Is there value/excitement over privatization? The discussion centered on the control of the airport and its use as an asset and economic driver to the local municipality. For some privatization is not the panacea and municipalities have concern about losing control of the airport. Given the funding crunch and chronic underinvestment in airports, there was consensus that the current path cannot be sustained and new delivery and operations models should be explored.
- Do US airports deserve their often negative reputation? There was a mixed reaction and lots of debate on this topic. Key points shared included:
- In recent years, investment has picked up and there are some bright spots e.g. SFO, LAX, DEN, etc. Also, airlines are investing significantly into their terminals so improvements are afoot.
- Airports are handcuffed by Federal grants and a low PFC. Questions emerged over whether the Feds need to be part of the equation going forward.
- It is difficult to compete with country-funded, single-airline global hubs like Dubai and Singapore.