March 1, 2013
On Feb. 25, 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a 40-year lease of Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) in Puerto Rico to a private operator. The Puerto Rico Ports Authority requested permission to lease the airport to Aerostar Airport Holdings, Inc., a joint venture that includes Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste.
A federal “pilot program” permits up to 10 public airports to be leased or sold, but remain eligible for federal benefits. SJU is the only current participant in the program, although proposals to privatize Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) and Hendry County Airglades Airport (2IS) are pending.
FAA will approve a privatization application only if specific criteria are met, including that the fees charged to general aviation users will not increase at a rate faster than for fees charged to airlines, and that, as a general matter, the interests of GA users will not be adversely affected.
In the case of SJU, FAA found that the criteria had been met. For example, FAA noted that Aerostar had committed to maintain and improve GA facilities at the airport. At the same time, FAA expressed concern that the loss of regular revenues from SJU could affect the PRPA’s ability to maintain the 10 regional airports in Puerto Rico that would remain under its control, which primarily serve general aviation. To address this concern, the privatization approval was conditioned on a PRPA commitment to fund regional airports at a “sustainable” level; submitting a draft Regional Airports Operating Plan to FAA within six months; and submitting annual status reports about regional airports to FAA. NBAA filed comments in the review process to draw attention to the concerns of GA, which were acknowledged by FAA.
The issue will contintue to be monitored and reviewed by NBAA’s Access Committee. Contact NBAA’s Jeff Gilley at email@example.com with questions or comments.