Air Carrier Incentive Programs (ACIPs) have become increasingly important for airport sponsors. These programs serve as valuable tools for many sponsors in attracting and promoting new air service and competition at their airports. Currently, the FAA’s only written guidance on ACIPs comes from its Air Carrier Incentive Program Guidebook, which has not been updated since its issuance in September 2010. Today, the FAA released a “Draft Policy Regarding Air Carrier Incentive Programs,” indicating it is planning to replace the 12-year-old Guidebook with a new policy.
In its Draft Policy, the FAA indicates that neither federal law nor policy has substantially changed since the 2010 Guidebook, but that its experience reviewing ACIPs for compliance in the time since the Guidebook’s publication warrants issuance of a formal policy.
The FAA’s Draft Policy states that its “intention is to provide more flexibility for airport sponsors to design particular incentive programs while remaining in compliance with Federal obligations.” Nonetheless, the proposed policy statement largely restates principles from the 2010 Guidebook and the Grant Assurances. Notably, in some areas, the proposed policy would provide additional explicit limitations or conditions on how sponsors may conduct ACIPs – potentially narrowing the ability of sponsors to continue existing ACIPs or implementing new ones.
Highlights include the following:
Under the new policy, existing incentive programs that are inconsistent with the new guidance would be grandfathered and could continue until their planned expiration. The FAA notes, however, that any such ACIPs would necessarily expire within two years of the issuance date of a final policy statement, and warns that new incentives under such existing ACIPs initiated during that two-year period must conform to guidance in the final policy statement.
AAAE reports that it expects the deadline for public comments on the Draft Policy to be April 4, 2023. Airport sponsors with existing ACIPs or considering implementing a new program to attract air service should review the Draft Policy with care. Airport sponsors who need additional information or want to submit comments are welcome to contact Sarah Wilbanks, Dave Bannard, or Peter Kirsch.