The associations speak to a $10 billion industry made up of firms of changing sizes, counting numerous little and neighborhood businesses which contribute $2.5 billion to air terminal income streams.
The Airport Restaurant & Retail Association (ARRA) and Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) urged airports and Congress to pass financial relief for airport restauranteurs and retailers given the business impact caused by the spread of the Coronavirus and resultant COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of both organizations have been seriously impacted given the decline in airline bookings/passenger counts, which are falling at unprecedented rates. A number of state/municipalities are closing restaurants, including at airports, to help contain the spread of COVID-19. All stakeholders in the industry are financially suffering.
These businesses employ more than 125,000 workers in U.S. airports. The restaurants and retail shops are a vital part of the passenger’s travel experience, and a major revenue source on which airports depend for their operations, development and bond financing.
John Clark, Chair of AMAC commented, “Our members are suffering tremendous sales losses exceeding 50% and in some cases as high as 90%. The industry is facing a financial crisis. Many businesses, including those classified as small and/or disadvantaged, may not be able to continue operations.”
Restauranteurs/retailers in the aviation sector are contracted by airports, airlines and third-party developers to provide passengers a full range of food, beverage and retail services. Pat Murray, Chair of the ARRA explained, “Our members’ ability to retain and pay employees, as well as pay rents to airports, has been seriously jeopardized. Some of our members will likely be unable to meet our debt obligations and will be forced out of business if quick action is not taken to provide relief.”
The associations urged airports to engage with their members quickly and adopt mitigating actions to save the businesses:
- Waive rent, other fees and the imposition of penalties for at least six months with the opportunity to extend depending on the extent/impact of the crisis.
- Suspend and defer concessionaires’ capital investment requirements.
- Provide operational flexibility including, but not limited to adjustments to operating hours, locations and menus/product selections as well as selective temporary closing of stores and restaurants in order to better align with passenger volumes and flows and reduce the impact on employees.
ARRA/AMAC strongly support the airports’ request for emergency financial assistance and flexibility to help sustain operations, preserve jobs and bonds, including assistance and flexibility for concessionaires during this critical time. ARRA/AMAC urged Congress and the Administration to provide financial relief/assistance to airport concessionaires to ensure business continuity, secure loans and make debt service payments. Specific measures ARRA/AMAC urge Congress and the Administration to act upon are:
- Provide grants/low-interest or interest-free loans to concessionaires to allow concessionaires to cover operating expenses.
- Provide loan guarantees to concessionaires to assure their ability to continue making debt service payments and secure loans for their ongoing capital investment requirements.