As Arizona has grown in population over the past decades, we have continued to grow our footprint as a go-to location for travelers in the United States and around the globe.
Despite an unprecedented drop in visitors during the pandemic, our state welcomed over 40 million visitors in 2021, and the Scottsdale area reaped a significant slice of that number, with millions of airline tourists coming to our communities, bringing their wallets with them, to hike in the desert, play a round of golf or purchase merchandise in Old Town Scottsdale.
The ability of passengers to readily and easily reach Arizona is an often overlooked but key part of the attractiveness of our state.
When that airline traffic flow suffers, when visitors have to slog through delays and cancellations, it has an outsized impact and could leave a billion-dollar-plus hole in Scottsdale’s economy.
We only need to look east to underscore our fears about future airline travel to our state. Florida is in a similar position as Arizona, with the lifeblood of countless local businesses remaining inexorably tied to a seasonal deluge of tourists. However, for its part, Florida has struggled mightily on this front.
As the Sunshine State grew in popularity in the run-up to the pandemic striking the United States, and even during the pandemic, the number of total airline passengers was affected by a struggle over limited routes and airspace.
General aviation (i.e. private aircraft), aerospace companies, and other entities are fiercely elbowing one another over airspace. This competition has a cascading effect, with the aircraft and crews’ routes to and from Florida arriving late to their next destination, causing more problems for travelers far outside of Florida.
If it can happen in Florida, the struggle for airspace can happen here, beyond the effects we are already feeling. This contagion in one corner of the U.S. can quickly spread, causing anyone thinking of traveling by air to reconsider their plans.
The FAA regulates and manages all aspects of civil aviation in the country, and it must be fully equipped to meet the rapidly growing airspace challenges.
The federal government has proven to be willing to invest in our nation’s airports with the recent infrastructure package allocating nearly $1 billion for this cause. Congress should work with the FAA to ensure it has adequate resources so that travelers can move seamlessly through these newly enhanced airports.