Legal Aspects of Airport Programs

Legal Considerations for Airports Responding to Pandemics

The recent COVID 19 pandemic put a spotlight on the challenges facing airports in preparing to address pandemics in the future. State and local governments own and operate many of the airports in the U.S. and airports are like cities in many respects. In responding to potential pandemics, airports would benefit from developing strategies for addressing the federalist system in public health governance. The risk of future pandemics also has a bearing on how airports move forward to address challenges they face regardless. Airports would benefit from being aware of legal considerations relating to the risk of future pandemics that could affect how they address other significant challenges in areas such as environmental sustainability (noise abatement and air emissions).

Background--State the problem and why research is necessary. Highlight the legal and regulatory issues as they specifically pertain to airports.

The Federalist System of Public Health Governance

The response to COVID-19 has shown that the federalist system of public health governance presents difficulties for the aviation sector. The activation of emergency powers by both states and the federal government to protect human health and life led in some instances to confusion about appropriate roles and responsibilities. For example, attempts were made to halt air travel and close federally funded airports to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The division of responsibilities between the Federal government and the states made it more difficult for airports and airlines to take swift and effective action to sustain air travel. Legal analysis of airport authorities and recommended strategies for navigating the federalist system of public health governance would position airports to respond more effectively to pandemics in the future.

Environmental sustainability

There are legal considerations bearing upon whether the temporary downturn in air traffic associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential for future pandemics presents a window of opportunity and incentive to develop strategies for environmental sustainability.

Other Legal Considerations

The digest would also address legal considerations concerning the risk of future pandemics pertinent to other significant challenges facing airports. Possible areas for research include finding markets to secure revenues and airport design and operation. Where such considerations are pertinent, the digest would provide recommendations to facilitate implementation of alternative strategies.

This proposal beyond the federalist aspect is also related to the ACRP Emerging issues of airport business model changes and airport sustainability as well as the ideas indicated.

Objective--State the objective, including a brief description of the intended deliverable, which airport stakeholders are the intended audience, and how their needs will be met by the deliverable.

A legal research paper summarizing key practical legal considerations to navigate the federalist system of public health governance and those bearing on other significant challenges would facilitate effective transitions by airports to the "new" normal. It would also position them to respond effectively to any future pandemics. The report should include recommended actions to mitigate the potential impacts of federalism on airports and the national air transportation system during pandemics. Stakeholders include Federal government, state and local government, airport owners, public health officials, airlines, and industry groups.

Relevance to Airport Legal Issues--ACRP's Legal Research Program focuses on legal and regulatory challenges and issues as they specifically pertain to airports. Please describe how this topic is relevant and unique to airports such that it should be researched.

See the description, background, and objective above.

Information Sources--Organizations, individuals, or related literature.

Organizations and related literature.

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Idea No. 742