Airport Retail and Other Customer Services Appeal for Financial Aid

Airport Retail and Other Customer Services Appeal for Financial Aid

Airports have joined with concessionaire, parking and car rental trade groups in a combined effort to secure financial relief because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Airports Council International (ACI) North America and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) have lent their support to industry calls for government relief for struggling airport concessionaires. The two associations, along with others that manage duty free, F&B, car parking, car rental and other commercial contracts, have penned an open letter to US Congress leaders calling for US$3.5 billion in federal assistance.

The letter, dated August 7, 2020, was signed by ACI-North America and AAAE, alongside the International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores (IAADFS), the Airport Restaurant and Retail Association (ARRA), the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC), the National Parking Association (NPA), and the American Car Rental Association (ACRA). 

The letter was addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The associations say that the airport concessions industry is in a fight for survival.

The associations said: “As you consider the next phase of coronavirus relief, we urge you to provide much needed assistance to airports and the diverse group of aviation concessionaires that provide valuable services at airport facilities across the country. Both airports and airport concessionaires have been hit hard by the pandemic and the significant loss of revenue throughout the aviation system as passenger levels have fallen by 70% to 75% from last year’s levels. The impacts on airports and the businesses that serve them has been severe and the prospects for a quick recovery are dim. Air passengers, upon whom airports and concessionaires depend, are not projected to return to pre-pandemic levels for several years at best.

“As representatives of airports and a broad group of airport concessionaires, [we] fully support at a minimum the US$10 billion in proposed assistance for airports under active discussion as part of the ongoing negotiations on the next phase of coronavirus relief.

“Collectively, we also ask that Congress provide an additional US$3.5 billion in federal assistance to allow airports to provide minimum annual guarantees (MAGs) and rent relief for airport concessionaires. We are confident that this can be done in a way that ensures that airport concessionaires receive critical relief without unduly burdening airports.

“Funding for airports and concessionaires is critical to the recovery of our aviation system and the broader economy. We urge the inclusion of critical assistance for both groups as part of the relief bill currently being assembled by Senate and House leaders.”

The letter builds on previous calls to action by industry bodies, including two recent papers addressing the challenges from ARRA and AMAC. 

The effort comes at a time when negotiations in Congress have stalled, but Rob Wigington, executive director of ARRA, said he expects Senate and House leaders to return to talks this week.

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