Meetings Industry Takes Aim at FAA

Just as the meetings industry organized to emphasize the importance of face-to-face meetings following bad publicity amid the Great Recession, travel-related companies and organizations are now urging Capitol Hill to include tax cuts on air travel and immediately improve infrastructure during the Federal Aviation Administration’s upcoming reauthorization.

U.S. Travel Association announced this week that 117 travel companies and destination management organizations have endorsed a letter that has been sent to key transportation leaders in the House and Senate. The letters’ supporters read like a who’s who list for the meetings industry, including Convention Industry Council, Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, Inc., MGM Resorts International, Loews Hotels, Universal Parks & Resorts, and nearly 50 state and regional tourism offices. Even a handful of airports are calling on transportation leaders to take action.

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

“As diverse leaders of the travel industry from across the United States, we request your support for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that includes pro-traveler, pro-competition and pro-growth policies that will modernize the U.S. aviation system. To that end, the U.S. Travel Association recently proposed a National Aviation Policy, a comprehensive package of reforms to accelerate airport modernization, stabilize funding for air traffic control and enhance airline competition–all while cutting passenger ticket taxes. We urge you to include these proposals in the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill.”

Last month, U.S. Travel Association issued a proposal to reform the financing model for maintaining and upgrading the country’s air travel infrastructure. The plan calls for cuts in federal ticket taxes and a slight increase on Passenger Facility Charge to help keep revenues local for the purpose of traveler-friendly infrastructure fixes. The goal is to maintain funding for local aviation-related programs including terminal and runway expansion, resulting in a marketplace with more carriers, and thus competition, that would benefit all travelers.

Domestic and inbound flyers annually spend $409 billion in the United States, supporting 3.4 million jobs. Among the problems cited by major players in the travel and meetings industry are aging airport infrastructure, growing congestion, declining airline competition and passenger frustrations.

“Complaining about air travel is basically a national pastime at the moment, and every single one of flyers’ major gripes can be boiled down to infrastructure woes and a lack of airline competition,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association. “These problems are not just about the comfort and convenience of travelers, they’re about the ability of travel to continue being a main engine of economic and job growth for the country.

“Congress has both the tools within reach to fix the system and the opportunity to use them with the upcoming FAA reauthorization. Our letter marshals some of the most influential voices out there to urge political leaders not to squander this moment.”

Click to read the letters sent to the House and Senate.

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