Airports Account for $63B in Economic Activity, Report Says
November 26, 2013
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  • New York travelers braving the long lines, frustrating security procedures and stressed-out crowds this week are not likely to think about the economic impact of their local airports. But a new analysis by two business-backed groups aims to highlight the amount of jobs and money that depend on the region’s airports.

    New York’s three main airports—John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Newark—accounted for nearly half a million jobs in 2012, up from just 248,000 in 2004, according to a study released Tuesday by the Global Gateway Alliance and the Partnership for New York City. Those jobs total $22.8 billion in wages averaging $51,000, which is higher than 75% of all incomes in the U.S. All told, the airports’ aviation operations, capital spending and tourism resulted in $63 billion in economic activity, the groups found.

    “These numbers confirm what we’ve long known to be true, New York’s metropolitan airports are incredible economic drivers,” said Joseph Sitt, a real estate developer who founded the Global Gateway Alliance in 2012 to advocate for the region’s airports. “When studies like this are released, it is clear to everyone the role the airports play in supporting the region economically.”

    “Our regional airports are indispensable to economic growth and to New York’s status as a global business capital,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City

    Of the 448,000 jobs tied to the airports, 213,000 are at JFK, 147,000 are at Newark and 87,000 at LaGuardia. All the numbers included in the groups’ report are based on data released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the region’s airports.

    Last year, 19.5 million domestic and international tourists flew through New York’s airports, spending more than $20 billion on shopping, lodging, meals, entertainment and local ground transportation which in total created 193,000 local jobs, according to the analysis.

    New York’s airports are big players in the commerce that flows daily through the region. More than 2 million tons of cargo flowed through the airports last year, most of it through JFK, the seventh-largest cargo airport in the country. Cargo operations created nearly $10 billion in economic activity, resulting in more than 54,000 jobs with an average wage of $63,000, the groups found.

    Construction projects and modernization efforts like the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia, Terminal A at Newark and runway and taxiway extensions accounted for $340 million of the $63 billion in economic activity generated by the airports and a total of 1,500 jobs.

    New York’s airports also face a litany of challenges, most stemming from the need for billions in infrastructure improvements to accommodate the growing demand for more flights and better service. More than a third of flight delays across the country originate in New York, spurring the federal government to embark on the NextGen air-traffic-control project to reduce delays and increase cargo capacity. But it is not clear yet when NextGen will come to New York’s airports. The technology will allow planes to fly closer together, making more takeoffs and landings possible.

    Delta Airlines debuted its new terminal at JFK earlier this year. And work is underway at LaGuardia to harden its power grid to better withstand flooding and extreme weather.