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Airports Across Texas Gather in Houston to Plan for Tomorrow’s Challenges

HOUSTON, Sept. 27, 2011—More than a dozen Texas airport executives shared their visions for how to address common issues as the landscape for airports becomes blurred with threats of less funding, airline mergers, a weak economy, the worst drought ever and rising costs to operate aviation facilities. The combined Texas public commercial airports serve more than 135 million passengers annually with many airports experiencing growth in either passenger and/or cargo service.

Yet, the recent Federal Aviation Administration partial shutdowns created additional stress on airports’ financial sustainability. Airports play a critical role in the economic vitality of cities in Texas and across the country. Laws and regulations on the state and federal levels often prevent airports from operating efficiently and moving forward with economic development. “Airports undertaking development are economic drivers, which depend on supportive laws and policies that will allow Texas airports to sustain financial viability and invest in needed infrastructure improvements,” said Jeffrey P. Fegan, CEO of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

“We look forward to working closely with federal and state lawmakers and regulators to promote our shared objectives.” The issues discussed include the need for more flexibility on Passenger Facility Charges and other policy changes that do not cap the ceiling for business at Texas airports. “If the federal government isn’t going to fully fund the nation’s needs for airport infrastructure maintenance and improvement, then Congress needs to give local communities the legal authority to do that, so that airports can determine their own futures,” said Frank Miller, aviation director of San Antonio International Airport.

Airport construction projects require a long lead time, and key to that advance planning is determining how to pay for those projects, which create jobs and secure the future of airport infrastructure. The funds come in part from bonds issued by airports and cities. “Congress needs to permanently reclassify airport bonds to avoid making these bonds more expensive and less attractive to investors,” explains Mario Diaz, Director of Houston Airport System.

“It would help airports become more self-sufficient financially and allow us to fund the kinds of projects that will help kick start our economy.” The airports that participated in the gathering included the two large Texas hubs, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; and medium-sized Texas commercial airports including, Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, San Antonio International Airport, Dallas Love Field, El Paso International Airport; and several other commercial airports.

In coming months, Texas airports will continue to dialogue to determine how to best serve the public and the communities that depend on air service to connect with commerce within the state of Texas, the nation and globally.

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Houston Airports served more than 49.5 million passengers in 2010, ranking as the fourth largest multi-airport system in the United States. Houston’s three airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby (HOU) and Ellington International Airport (EFD) contribute more than $27 billion to the regional economy. IAH is the seventh busiest airport in the nation and is the largest hub for the world’s largest airline, United Continental. IAH and HOU offer 21 airlines providing nonstop flights to more than 180 destinations worldwide.

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