White House and Congressional Support for Airport Concessionaires Is the Right Thing to Do
Updated: Apr 24
By Mareco Edwards, AMAC and South River Partners
This series aims to capture a moment in time, talking to airport concessionaires about how their lives and businesses are being transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.
My wife and daughter opened a kiosk at Dulles International Airport in September 2019, and their business plan included opening a second location at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in May 2020. The concept is a pet-accessories kiosk called Just Plane Pawsome. This unique concept was immediately successful, and the business was just beginning to take flight. Due to the effects of COVID-19, however, Just Plane Pawsome had to lay off their employees, and the hopes and dreams of growing their business are now in serious jeopardy. They need help. The concession industry overall needs help.
Just Plane Pawsome, like other airport concessionaires and their employees are an integral part of any airport’s successful operations. They are a major economic driver, not just as a part of the broader travel and tourism industry, but as contributors in the local and regional communities they serve and the U.S. economy as a whole. Airport concessionaires enhance the airport experience, employ more than 125,000 individuals at salaries above the minimum wage, and add more than $2.5 billion in non-aeronautical revenue to airports. They matter.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 and increasing government- and business-imposed restrictions on air travel have virtually shut down the operations of airport concessionaires. Unless the U.S. Congress provides specific and intentional relief like the $10 billion designation for airports, and the $50 billion for airlines, Just Plane Pawsome will not recover. In fact, it will be difficult for any airport concessionaire to recover. The existing airport concessionaires will permanently close—hard working, tax-paying employees will lose their jobs, and airports will have to find new start-up concessionaires to replace the existing ones as air traffic returns to normal. Even then, it is unlikely that the airport experience will ever be the same.
The airports and airlines are receiving federal assistance so that they are able to honor their contractual agreements, maintain staff, operate safely, and otherwise survive as an industry because of the massive decline in passenger activity. These federal grants are replacing much of the revenue that airports have lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Airport concessionaires face the same existential challenges as the airports in which they operate, so it is unreasonable to expect airport concessionaires to be able to pay rent to airports during this public health crisis and its aftermath.
As COVID-19 continues to decimate airport concessionaires, we hope you agree and support that the White House and U.S. Congress must address the short-term and long-term financial issues facing Just Plane Pawsome and other airport concessionaires in the next round of CARES Act funding.
It is the right thing to do!
Mareco Edwards is General Counsel to the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC). Since 1984, AMAC has been at the forefront of nearly every national policy initiative impacting the participation of disadvantaged businesses in airport contracting. AMAC also works consistently with Congress, the Federal Government, aviation trade associations and others as a resource for information, education and guidance on business and employment matters. Also, visit www.justplanepawsome.com to learn more about the only airport pet-themed accessories store in North American Airports. To contact Mareco Edwards, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.