U.S. Airports Get Makeovers

Many U.S. airports are in need of significant overhauls, as terminals from the 60s and 70s can't keep up with current demand and expectations. Jad Mouawad explores the renovations and expansions transforming the nation's largest airports.
June 17, 2012, 9am PDT | Akemi Leung
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While airports in Asia and Europe get high marks for amenities and customer service, airports in the United States are being criticized for crumbling terminals, outdated amenities, and crowded areas. In light of these issues, many major American airports, such as Kennedy International, Los Angeles International, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, are pouring billions of dollars into rebuilding terminals to accommodate higher traffic, airline mergers, and bigger planes, including the Airbus 380.

While public works projects throughout the country are stalled by political gridlock and budget crises, airport renovations "amount to some of the largest infrastructure projects in the country." As Mouawad explains, "Most airports in the United States are owned by cities or local authorities but are not dependent on taxpayer money to finance themselves and are, therefore, less affected by the current political mood to rein in spending. Instead, they typically finance investments through the revenue they generate, including airline fees, passenger charges and the sale of bonds tied to passenger traffic."

Jerry Orr, the chief executive of Charlotte Douglas International, noted, "Clearly, investment in aviation facilities has lagged the demand...But airports are businesses, and airports need the services that airlines provide."

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Published on Thursday, June 14, 2012 in The New York Times
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