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U.S. airports warn of $40 billion impact of COVID-19, seek more government aid

David Shepardson
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Travelers walk through Terminal C of IAH George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group representing major U.S. airports said on Thursday it expected to see a $40 billion impact over two years from the steep decline in passenger traffic because of the coronavirus pandemic, and called for a new round of government assistance.

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) projects U.S. airports will face $17 billion in lost revenue and higher costs between April 2021 and March 2022, in addition to the $23 billion impact in the year ending in March 2021.

In March, airports received $10 billion in emergency assistance from Congress and last month lawmakers approved another $2 billion for airports and airport concessionaires who had sought a second round of $10 billion from Congress.

"The ongoing global pandemic continues to severely impact the finances of U.S. airports," said ACI-NA Chief Executive Kevin M. Burke, adding the new forecast shows airports "will need additional federal assistance to get through this crisis."

Burke said passenger traffic at U.S. airports fell 65% in 2020 and it estimates traffic will be down 40% over pre-pandemic projections.

The Transportation Security Administration said this month it screened 500 million fewer passengers in 2020 versus 2019.

The airport group estimates U.S. airports will see at least 1 billion fewer passengers over the two-year period ending in March 2022.

Airports forecast $11.4 billion in lost airport operating revenue, $3.5 billion for additional operational and infrastructure costs related to COVID-19, and $2.1 billion from lost ticket charges and user fees.

Total outstanding debt for U.S. commercial airports at the end of the 2019 fiscal year was about $107 billion and airports face $16 billion to service that debt for 2020 and 2021,the group said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alexandra Hudson)