Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security(?) Act

Dylan Thomas’ story 3 Sep 20 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul  Business Journal related the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s (MAC) Announcement regarding the Operations, Finance and Administration Committee (7 Sep 20) Agenda item suggesting the reduction of fees paid by the airlines at MSP International Airport in 2020. Staff proposed a $41 million giveaway from the “CARES” (Stimulus aid to airports) Act. Public discussion in advance of the  Committee Meeting seemed warranted.

A Memo was sent to the Journal suggesting a follow-up. SMAAC will suggest more appropriate eventual distribution of the CARES grant funds as the MAC plans for a recovery of air transportation services in the Twin Cities next year or later.

There is a likely correlation between MSP overflight operations and the harshness of  the COVID-19 pandemic infections in South Minneapolis. We suggest that at least $1 million be used to conduct independent health-risk studies in the several neighborhoods overflown using new routes during the last 8 to 10 years. The routes undoubtedly added to air pollution (not quantified) and increased health risks (based on epidemiological studies under similar conditions elsewhere.)

After 9/11 and after the recession of 2008, air traffic changes occurred during the recovery of air transportation services that are not accounted for as to economic impacts (as well as public health) in the Twin Cities and for the State economy. These changes were not, apparently, planned or documented in successive plans.

While the Board will be following the discussion, a final recommendation or advice on the particulars of refunding or reducing airline fees may be delayed until the Full Commission meeting.

If the Journal does follow up, the public will see our comments for all five paragraphs of the story. We request permission to publish the story at our web-site. Meanwhile, the Memo is circulating among members for comment as below:

 

The Metropolitan Airports Commission is considering a relief package worth up to $41 million to help the airlines... The $numbers do not fully jibe  with reality. The grant amount is far less than the difference between MAC  revenue (or airline expense) 2020 versus 2019.

“A steep drop-off in air travel since the start of the pandemic has prompted airlines to scale back... Delta Airlines dominants flight operations at MSP: in 2019, Delta operated 70-some percent of the MSP flights (about 430,000 operations and 215,000 flights).  The size and weight of the aircraft figures in the ’rents and fees”, and Delta paid more than 70% of the gate leases and landing fees. Want to guess where the rent and fee reduction idea started?

“Airport spokesperson Patrick Hogan said maintaining a strong partnership with the major carriers ... will put the airport in the best position to recover after the pandemic.  Hogan was not referring to offering competitive air service, but to daily operations. For Twin Cities air services. competitive would mean, we think, reasonable availability, affordable fares, and convenient schedules.

MSP in April was awarded a $125 million federal grant ... airport officials decided $41 million ... was a fair cap for the relief package. The Commission needs to consider that every-other-passenger is a connecting traveler, on the way from their city through MSP to their destination. Do they contribute 50% of the airport’s revenue from operations? Not close. They airport revenue is based on the capital and operating costs, overhead and financing. And he airport is sized for about 8,000 daily operations.  Less demand reduces fees and costs,  Less use of runways, taxiways, ramps, gates reduces income, but many costs remain constant on an annual basis.

“The MAC’s Operations, Finance and Administration Committee is set to review the airline relief proposal Tuesday.” We wish review meant ‘consider very carefully.” Many MSP costs are not funded, including health and safety risks, and overflight disturbances and emissions that add to air pollution and other harm to the environment and ecology, including climate change.

 


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