Visionaries Needed

Paul Bowers

This fall, a senior VP of a mid-Atlantic airport told me that his team was having a hard time keeping pace with growing passenger traffic and flight volume. He said that in retrospect, the projects underway now should have been started much earlier, and the airport is working more to keep up with current demand than building for the future.

I get the feeling he’s not alone. These days, there seem to be more airports trying to accommodate current growth than expanding for anticipated traffic in 2030. Given how long it takes to plan and build a runway or terminal, 11 years is not an unreasonable “head start.”

Knowing what is needed in the future and doing something about it are two completely different things. That’s why we need more visionaries. Those of us within the industry know that despite inevitable bumps in the economy, overall demand for air travel will continue to climb. It’s not a question of if there will be an increase, but rather when and by how much.

Counting on local, state and federal governments to plan and push for airport growth 11 years from now is a non-starter. Generally speaking, they are not visionaries. Neither is the general public. We should never ask it for permission to fund a major airport project. Local citizens typically don’t understand the process and often only see the cost to build…even if they’re not paying for it directly. For proof, look no further than the recently held referendum on the future of Mexico City’s partially built airport. Citizens never should have been asked to decide the fate of the airport. It’s beyond the scope of their understanding. The airport was doomed as soon as that crazy referendum was proposed.

It’s up to industry insiders to be the visionaries for our airports. So roll up your sleeves and get to work. It won’t be easy, but we need you.


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