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Study: International Air Traffic Grows, But Large U.S. Airports Stagnate

A Brookings Institution study says the U.S. isn't doing enough to invest in its airports around the world.

Could the U.S. do more to welcome international travelers? That’s what a new study from the Brookings Institution suggests.

Despite a major jump in international air passengers — 163 million last year compared with 75.5 million in 1990 — U.S. airports haven’t kept up with their international cousins.

“The United States must recognize the primacy of international aviation within our increasingly global economy,” the report says [PDF]. “As international aviation continues to gain passengers and international connections, it is vital that the United States maintains a modern and efficient infrastructure system.”

What’s holding them back? According to the study, it’s a lack of investment in larger airports, with investment plans tilted toward smaller ones that don’t often deal with international customers. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, which will spend $3.35 billion on airport construction this year, favors smaller airports.

“It’s these major commercial airports and the spokes on the network that are vital economic utilities for their metropolitan economies,” said Adie Tomer, one of the study’s authors.

Some trade groups have stances in conflict with the study’s recommendations.

“Airports have more than adequate resources for needed infrastructure, while airline passengers are already overburdened with taxes that can be upwards of 20 percent of a ticket price,” Airlines for America’s Jean Medina told Bloomberg regarding the study.

And the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association recently encouraged continued spending on smaller airports, the wire service reported.

Should the U.S. do more to make its gateways to the world more appealing to international travelers? Let us know in the comments.

JFK International Airport. (Photo by prayitno/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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