The Role of U.S. Airports in the National Economy

For the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), Report 132 (Project 03-28), EDR Group (now EBP) led a research team to quantify the economic role of U.S. public-use airports and the national airport system (“airports”) to the national economy in order to communicate the national aggregate value of airports to communities and to aviation stakeholders.

The research includes total direct, national economic impacts of U.S. airports and multiplier effects, and national average on-airport economic impact by different types of airports [primary: (large, medium, small, and non-hub); non-primary and reliever; general aviation]. The report also examines how changes in airport connectivity between regions could be beneficial to the U.S. economy and the national economic effects of changes in airfares. There is also a discussion of the available evidence showing the importance of airports in supporting domestic and international commerce, economic growth and tourism, and the extent to which airports enhance urban agglomeration economies.

The economic impact of airports is typically assessed at a local or regional level to educate communities about how their airport(s) contribute to the area’s economy and to support airport infrastructure investments and ongoing expenditures to policy makers. Various entities have published reports quantifying the impact of the civil aviation industry, but not the specific economic impact of airports to the national economy. A need exists at the national level to educate policy makers and the public about the economic impact and the importance of airports and the airport system to the United States.

EDR Group conducted the research in association with Dr. David Gillen, ICF, KRAMER Aerotek, Inc., and Mead & Hunt, Inc. to develop this report. The economic analysis included documentation of the existing contributions of 3300 airports in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) with an impact of changes in airport connectivity, air cargo, and airfares.