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City Consultant Says Airport Authority Is Good Idea

Ken Lund

The Charlotte Airport would best be governed by an airport authority, according to a consultant hired by the city to study the issue. 

Bob Hazel of the New York firm Oliver Wyman concludes in a draft version of his report released Thursdaythat the airport has "thrived" under the city's supervision, but that the best form of governance among U.S. airports today is a properly structured airport authority.

That's not the result city council members were hoping for when they hired Hazel for $150,000. Councilman Andy Dulin has been the council's point-person working to block a measure in the state legislature that would create an airport authority.  His colleagues and Mayor Anthony Foxx want the airport to remain in their control, but Dulin says he's not surprised by the consultant's finding.

"I'm not displeased that it didn't say 'Hell no! No authority,'" says Dulin. "What it did say is, 'The city has done a great job since 1935 of making the lowest-cost airport, the sixth busiest airport. But if you want to do an authority, that would be okay too, but in its current form this bill needs to be tweaked.'"

Consultant Bob Hazel says the current version of the legislation – which has already passed the state Senate – creates an airport authority board that is too large and does not give the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County enough representation. 

Hazel says airport managers across the country agree an independent authority would give allow more flexibility to maintain low costs and operate like a business.

House lawmakers were waiting for its completion to begin debating the airport authority bill.  They may revise it to include the consultant's recommendations, but Dulin says he'll push a year's delay to allow further deliberation.