During the election campaign, Donald Trump complained that “our airports are like from a Third World country.” Indeed, America’s airports could be a lot better. The problem is that they are virtually all owned by governments and run as bureaucracies.
By contrast, many airports abroad are private and run in a more entrepreneurial fashion. Almost half of European Union airports have been privatized, including the main airports in Antwerp, Budapest, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Lisbon, London, Birmingham, Brussels, Copenhagen, Naples, Rome, Venice, Vienna, and Zurich.
Robert Poole and I explore airport reforms in a new Cato study, “Privatizing U.S. Airports.” We examine the early history of U.S. airports, discuss global reform trends, explain the advantages of privatization, and describe the needed policy changes.
In the early years of commercial aviation, the major airports in numerous U.S. cities were privately owned. Unfortunately, government policies squeezed out the private airports over time. We can and should correct that mistake, and bring back the entrepreneurs to the airport industry.
We don’t know yet how transportation policies will shape up under the new president, but the incoming administration should know that airports and air traffic control are ripe for major reforms.
Airports are a crucial part of America’s infrastructure. Privatization would increase efficiency and innovation, and thus generate benefits to travelers and the broader economy.