Air Miles

Growth in US air travel leads to aviation contracting opportunities and P3s, says Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO, Strategic Partnerships Inc.

Approximately 7.2 billion passengers will take to the air for travel in 2035. That’s nearly double the 3.8 billion air travelers in 2016, according to the International Air Transport Association. As a result, many airport officials throughout the US are preparing for projects that will help increase their airports’ capacity. That is good news for private sector contractors.

Building contractors, architects and engineers, along with experts in the utilities, communications, landscaping and security sectors will find contracting opportunities plentiful. There will be a variety of major airport projects – parking garages, terminals, new gates, technology upgrades, facilities refurbishing and infrastructure expansion. Many of the opportunities will represent multi-million-dollar contracts while other projects may reach a billion in cost. The latter will likely be designated for P3s.

Air transport is a significant economic driver for cities and states. The benefits of expansions and upgrades are justifiable because of the return on investment. Airports generate trade and tourism and provide jobs. Globally, the air transport industry supports more than 62 million jobs.

Many major airport projects are currently underway in the US, while others are just in the planning stages. Here are a few examples that private sector contractors should be watching:

  • Los Angeles World Airport in December issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for design and construction of the Los Angeles International Airport Consolidated Rent-A-Car Center. Officials want to designate the project as a P3 so that a private firm can design, build, finance, operate and maintain the facility. Preliminary plans call for construction of a customer service building, access to a planned 2.25-mile Automated People Mover station and parking for airport employees and visitors. Submissions for the RFQ are due February 21, 2017.
  • What is being called the largest P3 project in the country, the $4bn renovation of LaGuardia Airport in New York, is currently underway. The project will include replacement of the main terminal. A consortium of private firms will fund $2.6bn of the costs and will operate the terminal through 2050.
  • Construction of a new $1.8bn terminal project for the Orlando International Airport was recently approved. The first phase of the project will include 21 new gates, a ground transportation facility and a parking garage.
  • In Utah, the Salt Lake City International Airport renovation will carry a price tag of $2.9bn. The project includes a $740m concourse and a new terminal. Future phases of the project have not yet been put out for bids.
  • A P3 is planned for the Denver International Airport renovations. The security screening point will be moved and its space will be used for restaurants and retail to create revenue.
  • Contingent on passage of a public works bill during a special legislative session in Minnesota, projects costing millions of dollars are awaiting funding. Projects are diverse but one will include $5m for Rochester International Airport's US Customs expansion.
  • The Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) Airport is forecasting that by 2034, the airport will serve 66 million passengers per year, 24 million more than last year. Estimates are that the airport will need numerous new aircraft gates to facilitate the growth.
  • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s $6bn 2017 budget includes $989m for aviation projects, including the LaGuardia Airport project and continued planning for a new Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Connecting people and freight makes the aviation industry crucial to a strong national economy. In spite of that, the industry will need private sector capital and many skilled contractors to keep pace with quickly escalating capacity needs.