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Airport Authority for Hawai‘i?

Eric Fredericks

For the second year, a bill is before the Hawaii state Legislature to create an independent airport authority. PBN editor-in-chief A. Kam Napier has more on what that means.

Hawaii’s network of 15 airports, including Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, is currently managed by the state Department of Transportation.

Senate Bill 2530, if made law, would instead create an independent airport authority to manage the airports. Proponents, such as the Airlines Committee of Hawaii, say the independence would speed up airport improvements, create more efficient management, and put decisions in the hands of the people who ultimately pay for the airports, their users. The airports are not supported with money from the state’s general fund but with fees paid by airlines, vendors and passengers.

To cite just one challenge of the current system, major decisions about the airports currently go through the Legislature, which meets just five months out of the year. An independent authority would look after the airports year-round.

Right now, only three states lack independent airport authorities, Hawaii, Maryland and Alaska.

So who would be in charge? The bill describes a nine-member board, including one representative from each of the four counties, one from the aviation industry, and four others to be drawn from related industries such as hospitality, construction or finance. This board would hire and fire a CEO to run the authority’s operations.

If the bill becomes law, Gov. David Ige would have until August to appoint someone to facilitate the transition from state control, and then another 180 days to appoint the board members. The independent authority would be up and running by 2021.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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