Are All US Airports Federal Property?

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When you fly in and out of a US airport, it is interesting to know whether or not the US federal government owns the airports.

Most US airports you and I will fly into are in the United States and are owned by the state or local governments; most are run as public utilities. The Federal government’s Department of Defenses would own and run military airports. A private company or association may run some smaller airports.

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US Airports Run By State Or Local Governments

US airport operations are quite a complex matter. The responsibility for aviation operations is usually shared between different parties, including air services, federal government agencies, airlines, operators, pilots, airports, and state and local governments.

Some airports may join with Federal government agencies in the running and operations of the airport. It depends on the airport and the agreement between state and local authorities and the federal government.

In short, the federal government is involved in all US airports, but the airports are not US federal government property. Most US commercial airports are owned and operated by public entities, including local, regional, or state authorities.

The state, local, and regional authorities can issue bonds to finance capital needs. Airport operations are supposed to be self-sustaining.

The U.S. commercial airports are powerful economic engines. They generate billions of dollars in annual economic activity. They also support millions of workers with good-paying jobs.

U.S. airports are considered an economic powerhouse by millions of people working there. Also, many services are not in the airport but around the airport, giving the area jobs and economic prosperity.

U.S. Airports are so crucial that they support more than 6 percent of the US workforce and account for at least 7% of the United States GDP. Airports and the running of an airport are not just pieces of land but huge economic drivers.

The US Military, part of the Federal government, would own Military Airports. And some small airports could be considered private airports owned by a single owner or association.

The major airports that most of us will fly in and out of are owned by the state or local government and run as public entities.

US Airports Are To Be Self-Sustaining

The next time you go to an airport and pay an exorbitant price for a bottle of water, remember that your airport is supposed to be self-sustaining. In other words, they depend upon the rent and other services within the airport to become self-sufficient and not rely on federal or additional dollars.

The U.S. airports are supposed to become self-sustaining through the rental fees and other charges to the businesses operating at the airport, including the airlines. This is why when you fly in the United States, you will see areas of the airport designated for specific airline carriers. Those carriers are renting or paying for that space from the airports.

For most airports, the vast majority of their revenue comes from passengers, landing fees paid by the airlines, space rental fees paid by the airlines, parking, restaurants, food, and other goods and services at the airport.

Most Americans are unaware that commercial airports receive almost no taxpayer-funded support from state or local sources. In other words, if you live in an area with an airport, your state and local taxes are not paying for that airport.

Federal grants help pay for airport construction projects. The federal funding paid to help with these construction projects encompasses a portion.

From a real estate perspective, US Airports are essentially landlords charging for their rents and services. Except, in this case, the landlord is the state or local government that needs to be able to run the airport to ensure it is self-sustaining.

Extra Airline Fees Worldwide Help Pay For Airports

Examples Of Extra Airport Fees That Can Go With An International Ticket
Examples Of Extra Airport Fees That Can Go With An International Ticket

I recently purchased a ticket on the U.S. Carrier United that will fly me from Hanoi, Vietnam, to the USA Airport in Chicago. For this ticket, I will use the Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, transfer through an airport in Tokyo, and fly to Chicago.

I will fly back through two US airports (Milwaukee and Newark) plus Japan and finally land again in Hanoi.

As you can see from my ticket, most ticket costs go towards miscellaneous airport fees. Things listed here are surcharges, user fees, customs, and other fees. Every single airport is charging something along the way for this ticket.

Additional fees like this and their rental fees help ensure U.S. Airports are self-sustaining entities run by the local government or state.

You Can Listen To Our Podcast About
Sky Bound: Navigating the Ownership of US Airports
Below or By clicking here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns most of the airports in the United States?

State or local governments own most airports in the United States. They are considered public utilities and serve the general public.

Are there privately owned airports in the United States?

Yes, there are some smaller airports in the United States that are privately owned and operated by private companies or associations. However, the majority of airports are publicly owned.

How are publicly owned airports funded?

Publicly owned airports are typically funded through revenue generated from airport operations, government grants, user fees, and sometimes local taxes or bonds.

Do the same entities own military airports as public airports?

Military airports in the United States are owned and operated by the federal government’s Department of Defense. They are not under the jurisdiction of state or local governments like public airports.

Can private citizens access military airports?

In general, private citizens do not have access to military airports unless they have a specific reason, such as being a member of the military, working for the government, or having an authorized purpose for visiting.

Are there any privately owned international airports in the United States?

No, international airports in the United States are typically publicly owned. They are owned and operated by federal, state, or local government entities.

How are airports regulated in terms of safety and security?

Airports in the United States are regulated and overseen by various entities, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). These agencies establish and enforce safety and security standards for airports.

Can private companies operate major airports in the United States?

Major airports in the United States are predominantly publicly owned and operated. However, some private companies may enter into agreements or partnerships with public entities to manage certain aspects of airport operations.

When Do Real Estate Agents Get Paid Their Commission?

A real estate agent will get paid once the property sale goes through. The escrow company pays the listing agent’s brokerage firm, which will then pay the listing real estate agent and the buyer agent’s brokerage firm. The buyer agent’s brokerage firm will pay the buyer’s real estate agent.

By clicking here, you can read more about When Do Real Estate Agents Get Paid Their Commission?

Can You Legally Live In A Commercial Property?

You cannot live in a property that is zoned as a commercial property. Zoning laws in places like the United States are pretty strict. They usually fall under the state and also county and municipality jurisdictions. To legally live in a commercial property, add to make that property your residence; it also needs to be legally zoned as residential property or what is known as a mixed zone property.

By clicking here, you can read more about Can You Legally Live In A Commercial Property?.

Anita Hummel
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