Who Owns Airports?
Updated: February 23, 2023
Airports are essential transportation hubs that serve millions of passengers worldwide each year. They play a vital role in connecting people, goods, and services across different locations, countries, and continents. But who actually owns airports? Airports are owned by a variety of entities, ranging from public authorities and government agencies to private companies and consortia. In some cases, airports are owned by a single entity, while in other cases, they are owned by multiple stakeholders who collaborate to manage and operate the airport.
Publicly-owned airports are typically owned by government entities such as local or national authorities. These types of airports are usually managed by a public airport authority, which oversees the day-to-day operations of the airport, as well as any future development plans. Publicly-owned airports are usually funded by taxpayer dollars and generate revenue through various means, such as landing fees and concessions.
Privately-owned airports are owned by individuals, companies, or consortia. These entities may invest in an airport as a business opportunity or to support their own transportation needs. Private airports may also receive some funding from public sources, such as government grants, but they are primarily financed through private investment.
In some cases, airports are owned and operated through public-private partnerships (PPPs), where a public authority and a private company collaborate to manage and operate the airport. PPPs are often used for large-scale airport infrastructure projects that require significant investment and expertise from both the public and private sectors.
Airport Ownership Models
Airports can be owned and operated by a variety of entities, and the ownership model can have a significant impact on how the airport is managed, financed, and developed. Here are some common airport ownership models:
Public ownership: Publicly-owned airports are owned by government entities such as local or national authorities. These types of airports are usually managed by a public airport authority, which oversees the day-to-day operations of the airport, as well as any future development plans. Publicly-owned airports are usually funded by taxpayer dollars and generate revenue through various means, such as landing fees and concessions.
Private ownership: Privately-owned airports are owned by individuals, companies, or consortia. These entities may invest in an airport as a business opportunity or to support their own transportation needs. Private airports may also receive some funding from public sources, such as government grants, but they are primarily financed through private investment.
Public-private partnership (PPP): A PPP is a contractual agreement between a public entity and a private company in which they collaborate to finance, design, build, and/or operate an airport. In a PPP, the public entity retains some ownership of the airport, but the private company typically takes on a significant role in its management and operation. PPPs are often used for large-scale airport infrastructure projects that require significant investment and expertise from both the public and private sectors.
Joint venture: A joint venture is a business partnership between two or more entities, which may include public and/or private entities. Joint ventures can be formed to manage and operate an airport, with each partner contributing resources, expertise, and funding.
Leasehold ownership: In a leasehold ownership model, a private company or consortium leases the airport from a public entity for a specified period of time. The private company is responsible for the management and operation of the airport during the lease term, while the public entity retains ownership of the airport and may receive lease payments and/or a share of the airport’s revenue.
Airport Ownership and Operations in the USA
In the United States, airports are typically owned and operated by a combination of federal, state, and local government entities, as well as private companies. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a branch of the federal government, regulates and oversees airport safety and operations across the country. At the local level, airports are often owned by city or county governments, which are responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and maintenance. In some cases, airports may be owned by regional airport authorities or other quasi-governmental entities.
Private companies may also be involved in airport ownership and operations in the United States. For example, some airports may be owned and operated by private companies through lease agreements with local governments or airport authorities. Additionally, private companies may be contracted to provide specific services at airports, such as ground handling, catering, or retail operations.
The exact ownership and operating arrangements for airports in the United States can vary depending on a range of factors, including the size and location of the airport, the regulatory environment, and the preferences of local stakeholders. However, regardless of the ownership model, all airports in the United States are subject to federal safety and security regulations and must adhere to high standards of safety and operational excellence to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers and other airport users.
Who Owns the World’s Largest Airports?
The ownership of the world’s largest airports varies widely depending on the airport and its location. However, many of the world’s largest airports are owned by either government entities or private-sector airport groups.
Some examples of the largest airports and their owners include:
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: This airport in the United States is the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic and is owned by the City of Atlanta.
Beijing Capital International Airport: This airport in China is the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by the Beijing Capital International Airport Company Limited.
Dubai International Airport: This airport in the United Arab Emirates is the third busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by the Dubai government through the Dubai Airports Company.
Tokyo Haneda International Airport: This airport in Japan is the fourth busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by the Japanese government.
Los Angeles International Airport: This airport in the United States is the fifth busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by the City of Los Angeles.
Heathrow Airport: This airport in the United Kingdom is the sixth busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited, a private company.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport: This airport in China is the seventh busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by the Shanghai Airport Authority.
Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport: This airport in France is the eighth busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by Groupe ADP, a private sector airport group.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: This airport in the United States is the ninth busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is jointly owned by the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: This airport in the Netherlands is the tenth busiest in the world by passenger traffic and is owned by Schiphol Group, a government-owned company.
Concession – Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan
Concession is a type of ownership model for airports, in which a private company or consortium is granted a concession or lease to operate and manage the airport for a specified period of time. One example of an airport under concession is the Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan.
In 2007, a consortium led by Airport International Group (AIG), a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based Invest AD, was awarded a 25-year concession to operate and manage the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan. Under the terms of the concession agreement, AIG is responsible for the day-to-day operations, maintenance, and development of the airport, while the government of Jordan retains ownership of the airport.
Since taking over the airport, AIG has invested heavily in the development and expansion of the airport’s infrastructure and services, including the construction of a new terminal building and runway, as well as upgrades to the existing facilities. These investments have helped to increase the airport’s capacity and improve its efficiency, making it a hub for air travel in the region.
AIG generates revenue from the airport through various means, such as landing fees, retail and concessions, and other commercial activities. The company is also required to pay a concession fee to the government of Jordan, which is based on a percentage of the airport’s annual revenue.
Ownership of Frankfurt International Airport (Germany)
Frankfurt International Airport, also known as Frankfurt Airport, is owned and operated by Fraport AG Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide. Fraport is a publicly traded company listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, with the majority of its shares owned by the state of Hesse and the city of Frankfurt.
Fraport is responsible for the management, maintenance, and development of Frankfurt Airport, which is one of the busiest airports in Europe and a major hub for international air travel. The airport features four terminals, two runways, and a range of facilities and services for passengers and cargo.
Fraport is committed to ensuring the safety, security, and efficiency of airport operations, while also pursuing sustainable and responsible business practices. The company has implemented a range of initiatives to reduce its environmental impact, including the use of renewable energy sources and the implementation of energy efficiency measures. Additionally, Fraport is actively involved in supporting local communities and promoting economic development in the region.
Ownership of Dubai International Airport
Dubai International Airport is owned by the Dubai government through the Dubai Airports Company. The airport is operated by Dubai Airports, which is a government-owned entity responsible for the management and development of both Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport.
Dubai International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, serving as a major hub for travel and commerce between Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The airport has undergone significant expansion and modernization in recent years, including the addition of new terminals, runways, and other infrastructure.
Dubai Airports is focused on ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers and other airport users, while also supporting the growth of the aviation industry in the region. The company has implemented a range of innovative technologies and processes to enhance airport operations and improve the passenger experience, including the use of biometric facial recognition technology for seamless and contactless travel.
Corporatization – Singapore Changi Airport
Corporatization is a common ownership model for airports, in which the airport is owned and operated by a corporate entity that is usually owned by the government. One example of a corporatized airport is Singapore Changi Airport.
Singapore Changi Airport is owned by Changi Airport Group (CAG), a corporatized entity that was formed in 2009 to take over the ownership and management of the airport from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). CAG is wholly owned by the Singapore government’s investment company, Temasek Holdings. As a corporatized entity, CAG operates like a commercial enterprise and is responsible for the day-to-day management and development of the airport. This includes managing airport operations, developing and maintaining airport infrastructure, attracting airlines and passengers, and generating revenue through various means such as retail and concessions.
CAG operates under a regulatory framework set by the CAAS, which oversees the aviation industry in Singapore. The CAAS sets policies and regulations related to airport operations, safety, security, and environmental sustainability, while CAG is responsible for implementing and complying with these regulations.
Since its corporatization, Changi Airport has been consistently ranked as one of the world’s best airports, receiving numerous awards and accolades for its facilities, services, and operations. CAG has also undertaken several major development projects at the airport, such as the construction of Terminal 4 and the ongoing expansion of Terminal 5, to accommodate the growing demand for air travel.
Full Divestiture – Australian Airports
Full divestiture is a type of airport ownership model in which the airport is sold to private investors, and the government no longer holds any ownership stake in the airport. One example of an airport system that has undergone full divestiture is the Australian airport system. In the 1990s, the Australian government began a program of full divestiture for its major airports, selling them to private investors through a process of public tender. Under this program, 22 airports were sold to private consortia, with each airport being sold as a separate entity.
The privatization of Australian airports was intended to increase efficiency and stimulate competition, while also reducing the burden on taxpayers. The private consortia that acquired the airports were expected to make significant investments in airport infrastructure and services, as well as generate revenue through various means such as landing fees, retail and concessions, and property development.
Since the privatization of Australian airports, there have been both benefits and challenges. On the one hand, the airports have seen significant investment and development, with improved infrastructure, services, and passenger experience. They have also generated significant revenue for their private owners and contributed to the Australian economy. On the other hand, there have been concerns about the increasing dominance of a few large airport operators, as well as the impact of airport fees and charges on airlines and passengers. In response, the Australian government has implemented various regulatory measures to promote competition and ensure fair pricing.
Which Ownership Model Is Better?
It is difficult to say which ownership model is better, as each model has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on various factors such as the size of the airport, its location, and the local regulatory environment.
For example, full divestiture may work well for large airports with significant commercial potential, but may not be the best option for smaller regional airports that require government support to remain viable. Similarly, corporatization may be suitable for airports in countries with a strong regulatory framework and a skilled workforce, but may not be as effective in countries with weaker institutions and limited resources.
Ultimately, the most appropriate ownership model will depend on a range of factors specific to each airport and its operating environment. It is important to carefully consider the costs and benefits of each ownership model, and to ensure that the chosen model is consistent with the airport’s long-term goals and objectives.
Regardless of the ownership model, it is essential for airports to prioritize the safety, security, and comfort of their passengers and employees, and to operate in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. This requires a commitment to ongoing investment in infrastructure and technology, as well as effective management and governance structures that are accountable to all stakeholders, including the public, airlines, and local communities.
Do the Runways, Terminals, Control Towers, and Other Facilities All Have the Same Operator?
It depends on the ownership model and operating arrangements of the airport. In some cases, all of the facilities at an airport may be operated by a single entity, such as a government agency or a private company.
However, in other cases, different facilities at the airport may be operated by separate entities. For example, the runway and other airside facilities may be operated by one entity, while the terminal building and related facilities may be operated by a different entity. Similarly, air traffic control services may be provided by a separate entity from the airport operator.
The specific arrangements for operating airport facilities will depend on a range of factors, including the ownership model, the regulatory environment, and the size and complexity of the airport. Regardless of the operating arrangements, it is essential that all airport facilities work together seamlessly to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the airport, and the comfort and convenience of passengers and other airport users. This requires effective coordination and communication between all of the different entities involved in airport operations.
The World’s Major Private Sector Airport Groups
There are several major private-sector airport groups operating around the world. These groups own and operate multiple airports across different countries and regions, and often have significant expertise in airport management and development. Some of the world’s major private-sector airport groups include:
VINCI Airports: Based in France, VINCI Airports is one of the world’s largest airport operators, with a portfolio of 45 airports across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Ferrovial Airports: Based in Spain, Ferrovial Airports operates a portfolio of airports across Europe, including London Heathrow Airport, as well as airports in Australia and the United States.
Fraport AG: Based in Germany, Fraport AG operates Frankfurt Airport, one of the largest and busiest airports in Europe, as well as several other airports in Germany and around the world.
Groupe ADP: Based in France, Groupe ADP operates Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, one of Europe’s busiest airports, as well as several other airports in France and around the world.
Manchester Airports Group: Based in the United Kingdom, Manchester Airports Group operates Manchester Airport, the third busiest airport in the UK, as well as several other airports in the UK.
Avinor: Based in Norway, Avinor operates a portfolio of airports across Norway, including Oslo Airport, as well as several other airports in the Nordic region.
These private sector airport groups bring significant expertise and investment to the airports they operate, and often work closely with governments and other stakeholders to ensure the safe and efficient operation of airports, and the ongoing development of airport infrastructure and services.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many airports are profitable, although profitability can depend on factors such as location, size, and efficiency of operations.
Yes, airports can be owned by foreign entities, although regulations and restrictions may vary depending on the country and location of the airport.
Yes, airports can be privatized through a variety of methods, such as concession agreements or full divestiture of ownership.
Airport fees and charges are typically determined by the airport owner or operator, based on factors such as the cost of maintaining and operating the airport, demand for airport services, and local regulations.
Financing for airport ownership and operations can come from a variety of sources, including government funding, private investment, and revenue generated from airport operations.
Governments may play a variety of roles in airport ownership and operations, including providing funding, setting regulations, and overseeing safety and security measures.
Airports can be owned by government entities, private sector airport groups, or a combination of public and private ownership.
In conclusion, the ownership of airports around the world can vary widely depending on the location, size, and type of airport. While some airports are owned and operated by government entities, others are owned by private-sector airport groups or a combination of public and private ownership. Different ownership models have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the decision to use a particular model may depend on factors such as local regulations, political considerations, and financial considerations.
Regardless of ownership, airports play a critical role in global transportation and commerce, connecting people and goods across the world. As such, it is important for airport owners and operators to prioritize safety, efficiency, and sustainability in order to provide the best possible experience for passengers and other airport users, while also supporting the growth and development of the aviation industry.