Joseph Miller
The Show-Me Institute recently released a case study called “Government Privatization in Missouri: Successes, Risks, and Opportunities,” by David Stokes. The report discusses many aspects of local government that could benefit from partial or full privatization. One such area the case study addresses is the privatization of commercial airports.

In the United States, due to significant financing advantages given to publicly owned airports and onerous federal regulations, all but one of the 502 commercial service airports in the United States are publicly owned, most by local municipalities. That one private airport is Branson Airport in southern Missouri. As the case study points out:
The success of Branson Airport may be uncertain, but one of the features of private enterprise is that individuals and companies risk their own capital, not of that of their fellow citizens, in hopes of a larger return.

The other six commercial service airports in Missouri are all publicly owned, the largest of which are Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) and Kansas City International Airport (MCI). However, they also can benefit from partial or full privatization. The most basic level of privatization, contracting airport services, already is in place at both Lambert and Kansas City. These contracts allow the airports to attain services through competitive bidding from the private sector. MCI is one of the few airports to privatize its security screening through TSA’s Screening Partnership Program (SPP).

However, airports in Missouri can go much further in privatizing operations. This includes privatizing the management of airports or even leasing the airports to private entities through the Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP). Kansas City considered this option for MCI once before. This program is actually the only way a municipality can use proceeds from its airports on other public goods. However, the program requires a complex negotiation between the local municipality, the FAA, airport workers, and the airlines. As the case study states:
Should Kansas City pursue the APPP route of privatization, the city could expect significant proceeds from the sale. However, it would require complex and lengthy negotiations with the potential buyers, airlines, and the FAA in order to participate in a program with no record of long-term success.

The full or partial privatization of airports can have many benefits for air service in the state, whether it is simply reduced costs or financial gain from an airport sale. The case study “Government Privatization in Missouri: Successes, Risks, and Opportunities” outlines some of the possibilities that might allow Missouri to create an example of airport privatization for the rest of the nation.

About the Author

Joseph Miller
Joseph Miller was a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute. He focused on infrastructure, transportation, and municipal issues. He grew up in Itasca, Ill., and earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a master’s degree from the University of California-San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.