WASHINGTON -- The Transportation Department, conducting a review to
determine if airports hinder airline competition, received a flurry
of comments from airports with an overriding message: Stay out of
our business, but let us raise more money.
"The notion that airport practices are producing reductions in
competition or declines in air service is a case of an inquiry in
search of a problem," the Airports Council International-North
America and the Association of Airport Executives, the two major
airport associations, jointly told the DOT.
Boise Airport said, "Most airports are desperately trying to
gain more air service either through new entrants or more seats by
St. Louis Airport said the DOT "must not get sidetracked into a
detailed investigation on airport practices that have never been
shown to cause any harm."
Instead, the commenters said, the DOT should refocus its
attention on slot controls and domestic airline alliances.
The DOT is looking at many other competition-related issues but
also is continuing its airport review with closer "case study"
looks at 13 airports.
Airports were divided on some matters, such as whether
majority-in-interest agreements, which determine how much say
airlines have at an airport, give airlines too much power to delay
or prevent construction of facilities.
The two associations acknowledged the potential for problems
with such agreements as well as long-term, exclusive-use gate
leases, but said airports cannot get out of existing contracts --
and the DOT cannot legally force them to.
The associations and individual airports were nearly unanimous
that the federal government should raise the $3 cap on passenger
"If there has been any overall constraint on an airport's
ability to enhance competition, it has been the lack of funding for
airport facilities," said the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey, which operates Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports.