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US airport privatisation is set for a boost in 2018, but regulatory clouds gather

As observed many times in CAPA reports, the initiative of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 1996 Airport Privatisation Pilot Programme (APPP) in the U.S. has failed to generate the sort of response that was expected.

Initially, six ‘slots’ were available for a variety of airport types to be leased to private operators – from general aviation facilities through to ‘hub airports’ – then later increased to 10 slots, but to date only two have been successful, while one of those reverted to the public sector after only eight years.

However, since the election of President Trump in Nov-2016, there are signs of renewed interest in privatisation or at least use of private funding as a way of relieving cash-strapped municipalities and counties of much of the cost of infrastructure, and of introducing private capital and expertise into a sector that he had described as 'crumbling' in the run-up to the election.

That privatisation is likely to come by way of leases, as well as through public-private partnerships. Following the Camp David discussions during the first week of 2018, mixed messages have been sent on the potential use or not of public-private funding mechanisms. And, whatever the methodology, aviation may not be high on the priority list, other than for perhaps one or two show pieces.

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