The top executive at Spokane International Airport (CEG) in Spokane, Washington, called on the US Congress to lift the cap on Passenger Facility Charge Program (PFC) funds, saying that “the status quo is not working when it comes to funding airport infrastructure.”

His remarks came during the first hearing of the new Democrat-led House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which was assembled to discuss first steps on a possible bipartisan infrastructure package.

“Many airports, including ours, have increasingly used the PFCs as a crutch to make up for flat Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding and its declining purchasing power,” Spokane International Airport CEO Lawrence Krauter said. “Even so, together AIP and PFCs are only generating about a third of the annual funding needed to maintain and expand our country’s airport system.”

AIP funds are set at $3.2 billion annually, which has remained roughly flat since the turn of the century. Meanwhile, Congress has not raised the $4.50 per passenger flight-segment PFC cap in just as long.

Krauter described to the Committee how flat AIP and PFC funding has created “a cascading series of consequences” for his airport, saying that lack of funding has forced the airport to “delay or restructure projects that has ultimately resulted in greater cost and complexity.”

“Limited funding strains our cash resources and threatens to require us to take on unsustainable levels of debt in order to make critical improvements,” Krauter said, adding that raising the PFC cap would “provide immediate support for capital projects. . . and would ultimately save money for the traveling public.”

However, Airlines for America (A4A) said in a statement the airline industry remains opposed to raising the PFC cap, which it described as a “tax on travelers that airports don’t need.”

A4A spokesman Vaughan Jennings said the $6 billion surplus of the Aviation Trust Fund, which he called “money sitting unused, just waiting to be spent,” is evidence that airports don’t really need to raise the PFC cap to tap federal funds for capital investment.

He also said that “higher taxes won’t fly with consumers,” adding that “the pot of money airports has to fund projects continues to grow,” and “consumers shouldn’t be left holding the bag for a tax hike airports don’t need.”

But Spokane International Airport’s Krauter dismissed the notion that airports would raise the PFC to a point that harms passenger demand, saying that “it would not make any sense for us to price ourselves out of a competitive market by having a very high cost per enplaned passenger (CPE). Krauter said his airport only wants a “modest” increase in the PFC cap to $7.50 per passenger flight-segment.

“Keeping that CPE competitive amongst our peers is very important, so I think that serves as a market regulatory function for all airports looking at how they’re going to finance their capital program,” Krauter said.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com