ACI-NA Study: America's Airports Are Vital Economic Hubs

‘Airports, Inc.’ accounts for 10.5 million jobs, has a payroll of $365 billion and adds $1.2 trillion to the national economy


WASHINGTON, D.C. – America’s commercial airports are a powerful economic engine, generating 10.5 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in total economic impact, according to a new study released today by the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA).

The Economic Impact of Commercial Airports in 2010 quantifies the contributions of 490 commercial airports in the United States, dubbed “Airports, Inc.” The analysis, prepared by CDM Smith, concludes that in addition to the broader impacts, airports also are powerful economic multipliers in communities and states nationwide.

U.S. airports have generated 56 percent more jobs in America’s communities since ACI-NA last studied airports’ total economic impact in 2001. More information about the contributions of airports at the national and state levels can be found at www.airportsforthefuture.org.

In 2010, airports were responsible for about 8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and an estimated 7 percent of jobs. And with domestic passenger travel projected to grow from 713 million to 1 billion enplanements in the next decade, the industry is poised to expand rapidly. 

“This analysis confirms that America’s airports are economic hubs that drive our local, state and national economies, both inside and outside the airport fenceline,” said Greg Principato, president of ACI-NA. “Airports are bright spots in a time of economic uncertainty, especially for the 10.5 million American workers who depend on airports for good jobs across the USA.”

Using data from 2010, the report shows:

  • When you consider direct employment, “Airports, Inc.” is the nation’s second largest employer, after Wal-Mart.
  • The effect of airports on U.S. GDP - $1.2 trillion - is greater than the total value of all goods and services produced in countries like Mexico, Switzerland or South Korea, according to 2010 World Bank data.
  • The annual payroll associated with airports - $365 billion - is comparable to the economy of Michigan.

“Airports will be as vital to job creation over the next 10 years as they have been over the last decade,” Principato said. “In fact, our biggest challenges are improving local empowerment so our airports can make the infrastructure investments needed to sustain this level of economic contribution well into the 2020s.”

ACI-NA has identified over $80 billion in documented infrastructure projects, including runways, terminals and other facilities, needed to meet a surge in domestic passenger travel over the next decade, not counting federal projections for growth in cargo and other aviation-related services.

At the state level, the study shows that workers in five states benefit the most from commercial airports:

  • California:       1.4 million jobs
  • Florida:            1.2 million jobs
  • New York:       974,000 jobs
  • Texas:              970,000 jobs
  • Georgia:           637,000 jobs

Commercial airports are funded with user fees and receive almost no taxpayer funds from state or local governments. The federal grants that help pay for airport construction projects come from a portion of taxes paid on airline tickets, air cargo shipments, and aviation fuel purchases.

The study examined the direct on-airport economy, including visitor spending, operations, and the impact of the airports’ capital improvement projects. The FAA-approved methodology used also measured the commercial airports’ multiplier economic impacts, including employment and payroll, both on- and off-airport property.

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