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Decades of U.S. airport development and change from symbolizing status and spaciousness to today's congestion


Singapore's Changi Airport is considered by many travelers to be the best in the world.

Have a long layover?Stop by the butterfly garden or catch a Disney film at the airports movie theater.

In Qatar's Hamad Airport for a few hours?For about 50 bucks,travelers can swim laps in a 25 meter indoor swimming pool or workout in a fully equipped gym.

Traveling during Christmas?

Each year Munich's airport puts a pop-up holiday market, complete with an ice skating rink, a microbrewery and 450 real Christmas trees. And then, there's LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

The 1950's and 60's have often been described as the Golden Age of flying. Traveling by air meant three piece suits for men, high heels for women, lavish meals and lots of leg room.

Today, at U.S. airports, passengers are forced to wait in long security lanes and then line up for fast food, before boarding overcrowded airplanes with no free meals.

So why are U.S. airports so cash strapped compared to their international counterparts?

Airports in the U.S. started to take shape in the early 1920's.At the time, passenger service was virtually nonexistent and airlines were flying mostly mail.

While a few airfields were built before World War I,airport construction really began in the United States when the post office began to experiment with carrying the mail by air,they needed places to land.

During the Great Depression with big improvements in technology,passenger service suddenly took off.

In 1930, America's airlines carried about 6,000 travelers.

By 1938, that number soared to 1.2 million. Flying was loud, cold and only business travelers or the wealthy could afford it. Most of the passengers during the 1930's were business people and they understood that time is money.

As aviation grew, as new airplanes came in, they understood that this could move them faster, but also could move financial instruments faster. By 1940, modern airports started to evolve.

Planes got bigger, grass gave way to pavement and terminal buildings grew, from simple structures that were small and dingy, to art deco buildings designed by architects.

With massive amounts of public financing,America was well into the jet age.

By 2019, thanks in large part to government cash, the U.S. has more than 19,000 airports.For the most part,airports in the U.S. are publicly owned and operated by either a city, a county, a state or in some cases a public authority.

There are thousands of airports, big and small, but about 500 are consider public use commercial airports.

In its latest ranking of the most profitable airports in the U.S.,the American City Business Journal's said,the top five airports by revenue were JFK, Newark, San

Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.Every airport has its own model for how it brings in cash.

Revenue is also dependent on a whole lot of factors outside of an airport's control, including airline routes, passenger flows, plus local and international regulations.

But generally speaking, airport income in the U.S.can be boiled down to three categories: aeronautical operating revenue, non-aeronautical operating revenue and non-operating revenue. That first category pulls in the most cash.

Airports in the U.S. make most of their money from the airlines.And that revenue is everything from landing fees to terminal rents to fuel sales.

In 2016, the most recent year,the FAA made this data publicly available, U.S. airports collected revenue of $11.3 billion dollars from the airlines,including landing fees of $3.7 billion dollars, terminal rents of $5 billion dollars and cargo and hangar rentals of $661 million dollars.

Because they are government owned and receive taxpayer subsidies,airports try to keep costs low.


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