San Juan – the US’s single airport privatisation success in 26 years

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In the 26 years since the US Airport Privatisation Pilot Programme was initiated during the Clinton regime the programme has achieved no successes. With one exception that is: namely the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico, which was initially leased to a US/Mexican consortium in 2013.

The airport has turned itself around from what was a moribund ‘good enough for government work’ (to quote Tom Wolfe) edifice into something of a success story, with levels of investment usually only found in privatised European and Asian airports and notable increases in both passengers and freight.

The privatisation essentially depoliticised the airport, removing it from the clutches of politicians, each of whom had their own interpretation of what was best for it and themselves.

It is a model the municipal owners of the rest of the US airport business might want to keep in mind as the current propensity towards public-private co-operation to build specific infrastructure will ultimately reawaken interest in whole-airport leases, with much of it coming from abroad.

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