This is Why No Airport Privatization in the U.S.

I was President and CEO of Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) for eight years, from July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2013. During those eight years, I had more conversations than I could possibly count with people who wondered why airport privatization has not taken off in the United States. Many of these conversations were with people heavily involved in running or financing privatized airports around the world. Many were held with U.S. colleagues who thought privatization would provide benefits. In the world’s largest economy, and primary bastion of capitalism, airport privatization has remained the rarest of infrastructure animals. Why?

Season's Greetings 2016

  Like last year, we want to end the year with a summary of what was achieved this year, what to look forward to in 2017 and ask for your feedback.


  • The format of how we send you our articles changed. So in addition to the articles, we are able to add more relevant and valuable information.

  • We missed our birthday. Again! This time we have added the date to our calendar so it won't happen again.

  • ADB Safegate continued working with us and we welcomed NEC Display Solutions Europe and Konetica.

  • Airport Talent was launched. It's objective is to help employers connect with quality airport professionals locally and internationally. So if you are hiring, try Airport Talent or ask your company's recruiter to start using the service. Airport Talent is about quality.

  • We welcomed Azlan Morad as contributor. He wrote 2 excellent blog posts on private public partnerships (PPP) and has an upcoming post on climate change.

  • The subscriber (you) count is now at 530. Our aim is to grow the subscriber base to at least 800 in 2017. If you are not on the email list, subscribe.

If you like our articles and newsletter, please forward them to your colleagues and friends. Also, recommend us to your company for collaboration. New Airport Insider does not advertise. Instead, we grow organically via word of mouth and social media. And we are self-funded.

2017 Resolutions

  • Continue to publish high value, original articles.

  • Not forget our 4th birthday.

  • Bring on board new contributors (if you are interested in writing for New Airport Insider, contact Jinan).

  • Offer an online course, if resources allow (contact Jinan if you want to collaborate).

  • Organize an event, if we find the right partner (all offers will be considered so send in your request).

  • Get help with running the blog so we can publish more often (contact Jinan if interested).

  • Take a well-deserved holiday!

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Sponsor - Support New Airport Insider. Become a Benefactor, sponsor articles or hire us for your digital marketing projects. Jobs - We've added an Airport Talent page on New Airport Insider so that more people know about the service. Employers, if you are hiring, post your job. Airport Talent invites candidates to sign up for the email list to get updates.

Articles Published in 2016

This article! Airport People Power: DevelopmentAirport People Power: DisciplinePublic Private Partnership (PPP): How to Get to Transaction CloseBrexit US Aviation: What is the Impact?Heathrow's Mobile Display Solutions Provide Dynamic Messaging in TerminalsPublic Private Partnership (PPP): What You Need to KnowAnti-Open Skies Campaign, What Happened to It?A-CDM Affairs: Avoiding Loss of Attention Span 2A-CDM Affairs: Avoiding Loss of Attention Span 1Aviation Security: An Update

5 Most Read Articles

Australia Airports Build: The Other End of the LineSeason's Greetings from New Airport InsiderA-CDM Affairs: Avoiding Loss of Attention Span 2Introduction to Airport Planning: The Master PlanA-CDM in Europe: Is the Ball Rolling?

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22 December 2016

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Thank you for supporting New Airport Insider. We hope to continue delivering high quality articles for as long as possible. And from all of us at New Airport Insider, we wish you a nice Christmas with your family and a superb 2017.

- Jinan

Update: On 9 Oct 2017 we added links to Upcoming Articles

Introduction to Airport Planning: The Master Plan

On January 1st, 1914. Abram Pheil became the 1st scheduled passenger in aviation history when he travelled between St. Petersburg and Tampa on a two-seater: Benoist XIV. More than 100 years have passed since, and aviation has bloomed as a whole new industry that connects and globalizes the world. According to ICAO, by 2010 there were more than 25,000,000 aircraft movements around the world transporting around 2.8 billion passengers. Certainly a leap compared to 1914. And it keeps on going. Aviation has constantly grown twofold every 15 years, indicating that by 2030, there will be around 6 billion passengers transported through air in the world. As aircrafts become larger, deregulation worldwide increases, and aircraft numbers climb across; there is a big question mark left to answer: How do airports adapt to all this growth?

Airport planning has become a key activity in order to maintain airports to speed with the quick evolution of the Aviation Industry. This, precisely, will be my main blogging topic, bringing you analysis, opinions, in-depth related topics and insights. Of course, your feedback is welcome at the end of each post. But first let’s start from the beginning: Airport planning has a very well-defined product, the “Master Plan”.

What is an Airport “Master Plan”?

The industry provides a lot of definitions which are perfectly valid, but I find that the most complete one is the following:

"The goal of a master plan is to provide guidelines for future airport development which will satisfy aviation demand in a financially feasible manner, while at the same time resolving the aviation, environmental and socio-economic issues existing in the community." – FAA.

Other definitions by ICAO (Section1-2) or industry experts such as Kazda and Caves miss the “financially feasible manner” aspect, which is the end-tail drill of this master planning activity. The need of this “activity” is simply driven by the fact that most airport developments tend to cost quite a lot. Any slight change in the infrastructure of an airport will usually cost around the order of magnitude of the tens of millions (£,$,€), and these changes don’t happen overnight. Reality is that airport development is a tedious process (especially in Europe), and because of the impact that airports have on their localities and the magnitude of the investment costs, any change in an airport must be smartly designed and justified.

The best way to understand what must a Master Plan contains is to start by understanding what relationships do airports have with their locality, region, country, airlines, etc. And all these interactions must be considered when planning since it is crucial for the success of any airport project that the development plans are inclusive from the very beginning of all possible stakeholders.

Airport Master Plan Elements

There are many elements that confine airport planning. All these elements are to be dealt with caution since getting any aspect wrong can be a tipping point for the success or failure of an airport project.

Here are some read-friendly Master Plans for UK medium-sized airports where the different elements can be identified: Aberdeen AirportManchester Airport, Liverpool AirportEdinburgh Airport, London City Airport, and Bristol Airport. All these elements might have different impacts on the airport planning process and have their associated risks detailed below:


❖    Adds volatility to the demand. ❖    Dictates the guidelines for design and operation. (Annex 14 ICAO) ❖    Likely to change over short periods of time.

Land Use

❖    Any expansion will usually require of extended surface take. ❖    May limit the expansion options. ❖    Will make the project grow in cost.

Surface Access

❖    Integrates airports as an inter-modal node of the region where it is built. ❖    Threat to service and region benefit impact.

Route Development

❖    The route profile demand will very much define the airside requirements. ❖    It can be considered the main “service product”. ❖    An airport with insufficient runway limits itself to entire markets.


❖    Airports are strategic assets for any nation. ❖    Close relation between the airport development and the governments. ❖    Airport projects can become very unpopular; this could potentially trigger a government intervention which could prevent an airport development to happen.

Local Communities

❖    Community engagement is key for the success of any airport project. ❖    Given the level of impact that an airport has in its locality, a positive relationship has to be constantly managed. ❖    All airports will have against groups which will periodically protest against the airport presence. ❖    Community pressure against airports can paralyse developments before they even start.


❖    Will define the shape that the airport will need to have in the short, mid and long term futures. ❖    In a deregulated market, volatility adds even more risk to the forecasts. ❖    Main input to planning activity.


❖    Major airlines have an important paper in shaping the operation of an airport. ❖    Future plans of airlines can have big consequences for airports. ❖    Airlines can have a lot of negotiation power when they own most of the slots in an airport.


❖    Noise impact and Local Air Quality (LAQ) have a great deal of impact on the local communities. ❖    Species environment control can add a lot of cost to an airport project. ❖    Capacity can be limited by nose-factored movements per annum.

The above is only the surface of the complexity the airport planning activity can have, and each element must be dealt with carefully. In my next post, I will cover flexible airport planning as a strategy to deal with uncertainty around airport design and project development.

If you have comments, please register and leave one (or more) at the end of this blog post. Your feedback is appreciated.

References Airline Network Development in Europe and its implications for Airport Planning by Guillaume Burghouwt. ICAO Airport Master Plans Document Information via FAA

China Airports Build: Too Many Too Fast?

Editor's Note - This is a new series by Generation Y, we want to give them a voice too. The first post is written by Guillaume Dupont, a French aviation engineering student in his third year at ENAC (the French national school of aviation in Toulouse, France). He just wrapped up a semester at Beihang University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA) in Beijing, China. We hope you enjoy it. If you have a comment, we encourage you to leave one (or two) at the end of the article. You will need to register before you can leave a comment. 


As part of the Chinese government 5-year plan, China is building many airports. A plan that includes the construction of 82 new civil airports and the expansion of 101 existing Chinese airports, totaling more than 230 airports by the end of 2015 with an estimated 80% of China’s population living at less than 100 km of an airport.

Undeniable Need for Airports

As China’s population becomes wealthier and tourism quickly expands, China will certainly need more airports.  Moreover, due to its large territory, relying on air transport is a necessity; however, if we compare China to the U.S where there are 57 airports per million square meters, China has 19 only.  According to the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority, released figures show a strong continuous growth in 2013, reaching 11% to 354 million passengers.

That's all very nice, but this current situation must be contrasted. China's three airport hubs: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou account for one third of the passenger traffic in China (209 million in 2012), and one half of the country's cargo.

Airport Delays, Losses and Subsidies

Poor organization of the Chinese airspace lead passenger flights to suffer long delays. And they are getting worse with the traffic growth.  Furthermore, Chinese airports are widely unprofitable, even though officials claim the contrary, that they turned a profit of $750 million in 2011.

Recently, it was announced that the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority will grant a subsidy of $180 million to 137 airports in 2014, each receiving between $650.000 and $2.7 million.  That is all nice, but why not improve the current situation first before building more new airports?

Unquenchable Appetite for Airports

Presently, there is a huge investment in high-speed trains which creates competition for aviation so I question the usefulness of new airports in cities already reachable easily by train. But for local administrations, building an airport creates confidence which in turn attracts international companies and high-added value industries and services.

Air Transport’s Network Expansion

When skeptics question the risk of overcapacity, officials raise the argument of a network effect: more flights will come from a larger network, and then more airports will naturally bring more flights. And a possible apparition of more low cost carriers in the country in the near future could completely change aviation’s face.

The least active airports in China are served by 3 to 5 airlines, and generally linked to China’s main airport hubs.  43 airports already have more than 2 million passengers per year -compared to 62 airports in the US- and 24 airports have more than 10 million passengers per year.

Large Spend, Large Projects

To conclude, the number of airport-related projects in China is huge, as the projects themselves can be artificial islands, mountains flattening etc. The investment of the aviation authority in 2013 is expected to be $24.2 billion.  As a result, the environmental damage will also be immense. Nonetheless, since only 193 airports could be counted in China at the end of last year, it seems that numerous projects will face delays. The demand increase will not.

References China’s Airport Building Boom Will China Build 82 Unneeded Airports by 2015 China Air Transport Business US China Economy Airports Center for Aviation World Civil Aviation Resource Net

Update 11 Oct 2017: Guillaume Dupont is no longer a student