Congressman Cohen Introduces Airport Infrastructure Readiness (AIR) Act

July 27, 2020
Press Release
Provides airports with greater certainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, today was joined by Representatives Don Young (R-AK-At Large), Albio Sires (D-NJ-08), Hank Johnson (D-GA-04), and Adrian Smith (R-NE-03) in introducing the Airport Infrastructure Readiness (AIR) Act. The measure would direct the Federal Aviation Administration to calculate Airport Improvement Program (AIP) entitlement grants based on Fiscal Year 2018 or 2019 enplanements, rather than on Fiscal Year 2020 enplanements, which are expected to be significantly lower due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure would also waive the requirement that airports with contract air traffic control towers conduct a cost-benefit study because of a 25 percent or higher decline in air service. Waving the study would ensure continuity of funding for contract towers during the ongoing pandemic for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“With the number of flights down significantly this year due to COVID-19, several of our airports are at risk of receiving less federal infrastructure formula funding than they projected. The AIR Act temporarily adjusts those calculations to soften the pandemic’s impact. This will give our airports, such as the Memphis International Airport, a clearer sense of the formula funding they can expect to receive for infrastructure over the next couple of years as they respond to the pandemic.  Doing so will bring more certainty to our airports.

“The air traffic control tower element of this bill will help airports like Memphis-Millington Airport, which has a contract tower, time to adjust to the new travel reality.”

Congressman Young made the following statement:

“Aviation is central to the Alaskan way of life. Our skies connect our rural communities and Native villages to essential services and urban areas. These unprecedented times have had a devastating impact on air service in our state, and we should be doing all that we can to support this essential industry. I am proud to help introduce the AIR Act to help stabilize our airports and put them on strong financial footing for years to come. In Congress, I will continue standing up for the workers, families, and first responders who depend on reliable and safe access to air travel.”

Congressman Sires made the following statement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our lives, including air travel. The AIR Act allows funding decisions to take into account that disruption so that airports, like Newark International Airport, can continue to receive federal infrastructure investments that will allow them to maintain operations as we respond to the pandemic and into the future. I’m proud to be a cosponsor a bill that will give workers and passengers more certainty in the years to come.”

Congressman Johnson made the following statement:

“I’m pleased to co-lead the Airport Infrastructure Readiness (AIR) Act, with my colleague Rep. Steve Cohen. This bill will allow for airports to plan future infrastructure projects with greater certainty given the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many primary airports, like Hartsfield-Jackson International, receive funding based on their annual enplanements – the number of passengers that board aircraft. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has eviscerated the number of enplanements this year, reducing the potential to fund new projects. The AIR Act will direct the FAA to allocate Airport Improvement Program funding for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 based on 2018 and 2019 enplanements, allowing airports to maintain more robust levels of funding in order to carry out much-needed infrastructure projects in terminals all across the country.”

Congressman Smith made the following statement:

“Airports across Nebraska’s Third District provide vital links which allow commerce and tourism to thrive across rural Nebraska.  Addressing the unforeseeable drop in enplanements created by this pandemic will help ensure air travel remains safe, affordable, and available once we defeat this disease.”

A companion measure was introduced in the Senate by Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, in addition to Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation advanced the measure on July 22, 2020.

Congressman Cohen represents a district containing the second busiest cargo airport in the world and fifth busiest in traffic activity in the nation.