American airports face more than $115B project backlog

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According to a report released Wednesday by Airports Council International, U.S. airports currently face a backlog of more than $115 billion in infrastructure projects due to underfunding.

Additional projects have also been delayed or canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for airport infrastructure projects began declining rapidly before the pandemic. This has forced airports to prioritize immediate needs, such as maintenance, over higher-impact projects such as modernizing facilities and increasing capacity.

The federally-capped Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) is a major source of airport infrastructure funding, but it has not been raised in two decades.

“Modernizing the PFC cap is the right way to fund infrastructure because it is responsive to local circumstances and traveling trends,” Airports Council International said. “An airport in a once-small town experiencing a rapid population boom could set a higher PFC; another airport that’s just completed a major terminal renovation project could set a lower one. And because the PFC is a user fee, not a tax, it is paid only by those who actually use an airport and benefit directly from the improvements it funds.”

Modernizing also would allow airports to fund projects that provide concrete benefits for travelers, the council said.