Who Owns Airports?

by SharonKurheg

Airports in the United States generate billions of dollars in economic activity and support millions of lousy-to-fair-to-good-to-excellent-paying jobs (yeah, it’s complicated). Airports are generally self-sustaining entities and act as landlords for businesses (including airlines).

But who owns them?

U.S.-based commercial airports

Throughout most of the rest of the world, it’s been the trend that commercial airports have become privatized. However, nearly all airports in the U.S. that have scheduled passenger airline service are currently owned by a government entity – either the federal, city or county government or by a regional airport authority that’s a part of the local government.

The one exception to this is Branson Airport, the only privately owned, privately operated commercial service airport in the country (it’s essentially self-owned. As part of the negotiations to create the airport, obtain financing and reduce liability, Branson Airport, LLC had to “gift” the land they owned to Taney County, Missouri in order to lease and operate the airport privately).

Although all (but one) are owned by various forms of government, they’re not all run by those governments. For example, the 2 “big” airports in NYC, John F. Kennedy & LaGuardia, are owned by the City of New York, and, across the Hudson River, the third big airport in the area, Newark-Liberty International Airport, is jointly owned by the New Jersey cities of Elizabeth and Newark. But all 3 are leased to and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. As another example, Terminal 5 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is managed by a private firm.

What about the U.S. airports that aren’t commercial airports?

Not surprisingly, most military airports are owned and operated by the federal government.

Most general aviation airports (read: small, local airports that accept privately-owned personal or business planes) are private, and are owned either by a single owner, a private company, or an association made up of those who own hangars or other facilities at the airport.

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