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US airports are golden cash cows, aren’t they?

Premium Analysis

The Reason Foundation, a US think tank, has long advocated in favour of privatisation generally, including in the air transport sector, in a country in which government – national, regional or local – exercises an inordinate degree of control over transport infrastructure.

In a recent study the foundation is pushing again for major US airports to be leased, pointing to a potential pot of more than USD130 billion that ideally would be used to shore up airport balance sheets, but which could be employed on non-airport infrastructure and other uses where it could be justified.

Those valuations are open to question, though, in an environment in which a global pandemic hasn’t finished its business yet, and in which the environment itself is waiting to re-emerge as yet another existential threat to the industry.

And while foreign interest in US airports is strangely high – given that there have been no successful privatisation examples to examine apart from the San Juan deal – ultimately any decision to lease an airport there will have to contend with political interests as well as the value placed on it.

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