Washington, D.C. – Today President Obama signed into law a four year renewal of the Federal Aviation Administration that provides crucial investments in our nation’s air transportation system. This law will also provide an estimated $6 million more a year from the Airport Improvement Program for Hawaii’s busiest airports as a result of an amendment authored by Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (HI-02), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
In addition, the legislation maintains the Essential Air Service Program which provides subsidized air service to residents of Kalaupapa, Molokai.
“As our nation’s only island state, Hawaii stands to benefit from this new law’s support of our local airports. Hawaii can expect an estimated $6 million more a year to help our airports make critical improvements, resulting in safer airports and more jobs,” said Congresswoman Hirono. “Also, the Essential Air Service Program is preserved in this law so residents of Kalaupapa can continue to fly to the neighbor islands affordably.
“While there are a lot of good things in this law, it is not perfect. I am especially concerned about provisions that undermine the rights of airline and railroad workers. We will have to work hard to see that these rights are restored in the future.”
Background on Congresswoman Hirono’s Amendment
Because of the importance of air travel in Hawaii, current federal law exempts Hawaii’s airports from charging passenger facility fees (PFCs) to passengers on interisland flights. In general, PFCs are used to pay for capital improvement projects at airports that collect them.
However, airports that charge these fees must return 50 to 75 percent of their annually allotted Airport Improvement Program funds, which are provided to airports for the same purposes as PFCs. This prevents airports from “double-dipping.”
Most airports in the U.S. that collect PFCs charge them on 100 percent of the passengers passing through their facilities.
However, due to the exemption for interisland travel, the state collects PFCs on far fewer passengers using Hawaii’s airports than cities such as Los Angeles or Seattle.
This puts Hawaii at a disadvantage under the previous formula.
Congresswoman Hirono’s amendment remedies this by requiring the FAA to take into account the number of interisland passengers when calculating Hawaii’s annual share of Airport Improvement Program grants.
There are 15 airports operated by the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Airports Division.
The State DOT is responsible for maintaining safe and efficient facilities that accommodate approximately 25 million passengers a year.