Air Transport World

New York's answer to privatization.(PRIVATIZATION)

AIRPORT PRIVATIZATION HAS SPREAD RAPIDLY throughout the world since Margaret Thatcher's UK government sold off airports operator BAA in 1987, with one glaring exception: The US. Major airports in the world's largest air transport market are not viewed, as they increasingly are in much of Europe and Asia, as for-profit, self-sustaining businesses. Rather, Americans largely perceive airports as public utilities, much like libraries and motor vehicle administrations, that should be owned and managed by state and local governments.

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Even in New York City, the bastion of world capitalism, LaGuardia and JFK are owned by the city government and controlled and operated by the port authority of New York and new Jersey, a bi-state agency run by a board appointed by the two states' governors that also manages commuter trains, bridges, tunnels and seaports. Within that public bureaucracy, however, lies an experiment in airport privatization, by far the largest of its kind in the US. JFK's $1.4 billion Terminal 4, used by more than 7.5 million passengers annually, opened in May 2001 on the site of the old International Arrivals Building under the management of JFK International Air Terminal, a private consortium comprising Schiphol USA, LCOR Inc. and Lehman Brothers.

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"We decided years ago that [contracting out management of major JFK terminals] was the best way to operate," PANYNJ spokesperson Pasquale DiFulco says, pointing to the examples of Terminal 4 and other JFK terminals operated directly by airlines. But T4 clearly distinguishes itself from a facility developed and managed by an airline primarily for its own benefit. …

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