WASHINGTON — Funding, infrastructure development, changes in security and airline models— all are on the agenda for Krys Bart as she takes over the reins as chair of the American Association of Airport Executives. At the same time, a personal agenda item is to grow the association’s international scope, even to the point of exploring a ‘sister airport’ initiative similar to the Sister Cities International program. During the annual meeting of AAAE held here in June, Bart sat with AIRPORT BUSINESS to discuss issues facing the industry and her airport.
Bart serves as the executive director of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority and is the former assistant director at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.
Following are edited excerpts of our interview ...
AIRPORT BUSINESS: It seems safe to assume that funding and reauthorization are at the top of your ‘to-do list’ for airports.
Bart: Without a doubt reauthorization will be the number one priority. It’s critical that we have AIP [Airport Improvement Program] re-established at least at the same level. It is equally critical that we increase the cap on passenger facility charges (PFCs).
Now, what would I like? I’d say blow the cap off and let each airport [determine the PFC level] based on their capital program. It’s unrealistic in the political climate in which we operate.
I think the $7.50 that we’re asking for is valid. When you put the numbers to what we have today and how long it’s been in effect, and you put in the multipliers and cost of living escalators, you come up to just about $7.50. It’s a totally reasonable number, and we will continue to work toward that number.
Congressman Oberstar today mentioned $6. Well, not too long ago Congressman Oberstar didn’t believe we need an increase. I’m very pleased to see his recognition at $6 – it’s a huge move, and I appreciate it. It’s just not far enough.
AB: The PFC debate in particular seems to be having trouble sticking with legislators. Where do you think it will end up?
Bart: Our position all along has been $7.50 with indexing; I don’t think we’ll get the indexing. While that would make everyone’s life easier, I think everyone understands that the games must continue to be played in Washington. I think we’ll end up close to the $7.50 without indexing.
I also think we’ll end up without the ability to expand the use of the PFCs, which was the FAA’s proposal. I also think we’ll end up with AIP about where it is today. If that happens, we’ll be very fortunate in today’s political environment.
In my specific situation, I need those PFCs to leverage the funding for a new terminal concourse development. They will make the difference. The cost of construction has gone up so much, and continues to go up. It’s not flattening at all.
If you can hold a bid for 60 days you’re extremely lucky; today most bids you can hold for 30 days. At least in our environment.
We’re between a rock and a hard place. We’ve got to move people through the system, and it starts the minute they drive onto the airport property. It doesn’t start on the tarmac. It starts when you move the cars through and you park the cars; and you move the people through the front door and the process and onto the Jetways. Every part of that process needs to be funded adequately enough that we can continue to move them through without a bottleneck.
AB: One positive in the funding debate in Congress is the high profile money for airport security is getting. Are you optimistic?
Bart: Yes, I’m very optimistic that we’ll end up with more security funding. The recent JFK [fuel farm] threat and others continue to point to the need for security. The question is, how are we going to use that funding? I believe that we must focus on technology.
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