As we discuss selling our airport, one thing that seems to be missing from the public dialog are some basic facts.
St. Louis Lambert International Airport, commonly known as Lambert Airport, is the largest and busiest airport in Missouri with 270 daily departures to over 80 domestic and international locations. Lambert Field became the first municipally owned airport in the United States when the City of St. Louis bought it in 1927 and shortly thereafter became the first airport with an air traffic control system.
Lambert Airport is an Enterprise Fund which means its operations are financed and operated in a manner similar to private business enterprises through user charges and fees, and do not derive funding from tax dollars. Airports can earn revenue to operate from airline fees, federal grants, passenger fees (currently $4.50/passenger), concessions such as food, parking and retail, and revenue bonds.
In 2017, airports received about $3.35 billion in federal grants for runways, taxiways, and security. Federal law restricts the use of revenue generated at an airport that receives federal assistance; Airport revenue may be used only for capital and operating costs of the airport. Financial commitments predating this regulation were grandfathered in and St. Louis is one of just 12 municipal airports out of 457 which are currently grandfathered into a revenue sharing model.
In FY 2017, the City of St. Louis received $6.5M in revenue sharing. This figure is up from $6.2M in 2013 and has continued to increase year after year. In fact, by all accounts, the airport has been improving. Enplanements are up to 6.5% over last year, connecting enplanements up 12%, and deplaned passengers are up 6.4% for a total passenger count of over 13million, an increase of 6.4%.
Lambert Airport is the City of St. Louis’s single biggest asset. FY18 includes a total budget of $169M. It is an integral part of our region’s current transportation capacity and future economic growth. Selling off the leasehold interest not only puts the grandfather municipal income in jeopardy, more importantly, it irreversibly shifts the dynamics of a regional economic development plan before it even starts.