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Airport And Concessionaire Trade Groups Join In Relief Appeal

Airports have joined with concessionaire, parking and car rental trade groups in a combined effort to secure financial relief due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent to Congressional leaders, the trade groups pushed for aid for both airports and concessionaires, saying they “fully support, at a minimum, the $10 billion in proposed assistance for airports under active discussion as part of the ongoing negotiations on the next phase of coronavirus relief. Collectively, we also ask that Congress provide an additional $3.5 billion in federal assistance to allow airports to provide minimum annual guarantee (MAGs) and rent relief for airport concessionaires. We are confident that this can be done in a way that ensures that airport concessionaires receive critical relief without unduly burdening airports.”

The letter was signed by the leaders of Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA); the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE); the Airport Restaurant and Retail Association (ARRA); the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC); the American Car Rental Association (ACRA); the International Association of Airport Duty Free Shops (IAADFS); and the National Parking Association (NPA).

In their appeal for funding, the trade groups noted that both airports and airport concessionaires have been hit hard by the pandemic, with significant revenue losses due to the 70-75 percent drop-off in passenger levels compared to last year. “The impacts on airports and the businesses that serve them has been severe and the prospects for a quick recovery are dim,” the letter said. “Air passengers, upon whom airports and concessionaires depend, are not projected to return to pre-pandemic levels for several years at best.”

The effort comes at a time when negotiations in Congress have stalled, but Rob Wigington, executive director of ARRA, said he expects Senate and House leaders to return to talks this week.

“We have a lot of support for our proposal, and we’re optimistic that the Senate, the House and the Administration can come together on a package in which we would get funding as well as the airports,” Wigington said. “We’re feeling pretty good, but not overconfident because you never know.”

While both ACI and AAAE have in the past expressed support for concessionaires to get federal assistance, this latest move covers new territory.

We’ve never gotten to a point where they were supporting a specific proposal we’ve been advocating,” Wigington said. “It’s really good to get them on board with this proposal.” He added that concessionaires have “always supported getting more funding for airports, both in the first CARES Act and also in this one.”

Wigington adds: “One of the best benefits, if we get this package through, is it will set aside the whole debate about getting [concessionaire] relief [from airports] at the local level, so we can all focus on recovery.”