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lightmac
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Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 8:29 am

In Europe (but not in the US or Japan/China/Korea) many big airports are run by for-profit companies (Paris, Copenhagen etc.), floated on the stock exchange. What effect does this have on an airline making such an airport their hub? While an advantage of picking a commercial airport might be that they might like to expand quickly together, a disadvantage might be, that for-profit airports might want to milk the passengers more (by building complicated paths along shops, forcing people through duty-free shops for example). For example, Lufthansa has four main hubs, three of which are stock-companies (Frankfurt, Vienna and Zurich), while Munich is not. They currently shift a lot of traffic to Munich. Is there a causality?
 
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LAX772LR
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 8:38 am

There may be some effect. I'm not qualified to say what that is, and it's doubtful anyone else here would be either....

..but that said, it's not a primary one. First and foremost, the market will dictate an airline's desire to be at a given gateway. The best-run hub in the world with no demand, isn't one where an airline would want to be.

Yet we've seen over the decades airlines put up with subpar facilities in (certain areas of) the likes of LHR, EWR, MIA, JFK, CDG, formerly Kai Tak, LAX, etc-- because of the demand those places generated.
I myself, suspect a more prosaic motive... ~Thranduil
 
MIflyer12
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:41 am

On the right, largely from the point of ideology (as in, they can't point to studies and data) they argue that private-sector management will be more efficient, yielding profits AND lower costs as 'entrepreneurial businesses'. On the other side, why would you have private ownership and/or management of an expensive public asset? I mean, Germany doesn't have private companies manage its elementary schools, does it?

There are lots of data on U.S. per-enplanement passenger costs, including some privately owned terminals. If anything, U.S. carriers within the last decade have recognized the need for expanded facilities and have pushed for expansion and renewal using (some of) their own money: JFK, LGA, LAX...
 
airbazar
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:51 am

I'm not sure it makes a difference. IMO the political environment is a far bigger factor than whether the airport is private or public.
IMO the biggest obstacle in today's aviation is capacity. As a mere observer it doesn't seem to be any easier to expand a private airport as it is to expand a public airport.
There's also the fact that in a lot of cases the lines are blurred between private and public entities. For example some airports in Europe are public but run by a private entity on a long term concession contract, like these guys: https://www.vinci-airports.com/en
In the U.S. airports are public but some are run by independent, self-sustained entities (like the port authority), without any use of public funding which means they are run just like a private, for-profit organization. In a lot of cases, especially at major airports the terminal concessions are contracted out to private, for-profit entities like these guys, https://www.marketplacedevelopment.com/ , just like in Europe and the terminals themselves can be owned by the airlines.
 
EBiafore99
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:11 am

LAX772LR wrote:
There may be some effect. I'm not qualified to say what that is, and it's doubtful anyone else here would be either....

..but that said, it's not a primary one. First and foremost, the market will dictate an airline's desire to be at a given gateway. The best-run hub in the world with no demand, isn't one where an airline would want to be.

Yet we've seen over the decades airlines put up with subpar facilities in (certain areas of) the likes of LHR, EWR, MIA, JFK, CDG, formerly Kai Tak, LAX, etc-- because of the demand those places generated.


I'm not sure it's fair to say "airlines put up with...". I think it's more appropriate to say "airlines have let their customers put up with..." Attached is an article that discusses this issue. I thought it was interesting....

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/21/delta-s ... round.html

Let's hope this is true...
 
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zkojq
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:31 am

It depends. I think it's important to distinguish between airports that have a natural monopoly of the cities they serve (eg SYD, AKL, HKG, SIN, MUC, CPH, ZRH etc) and airports that have competitors serving the same city. I think it's also important to distinguish between cities where all the local airports are owned by the same private company (eg Aeroports de Paris) owns and operates all the airports serving Paris.


I don't have a problem with airports being privately owned, but it is a massive problem when an airport with an effective monopoly is privatised. AKL and SYD are excellent examples of this. In both cases the airport operator would far rather build more carpark buildings, invest in the airport's business park and add more shops than invest money on functions that are actually important - like building more desperately needed gates and extending/replacing old terminals that are bursting at the seams. All of this whilst hiking passenger charges. Unfortunately the Anglo Saxon ideology is always focuses on short term profits which means minimising spending on critical infrastructure (new gates) until long after it was desperately needed. Extra terminal capacity is seen as unnecessary spending. :roll:
Last edited by zkojq on Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
First to fly the 787-9
 
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jfklganyc
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:34 am

US has mostly government run facilities

They are pretty bad.

Depends on the entity, the cost structure and the fee structure in place.

JFK LGA and EWR have the highest costs in the nation.

These costs are floating a bloated agency where a majority of employees make six figure salaries

The facilities themselves are sup par.

The NYC airports were almost privatized. 9/11 scuttled that.

Would they work better run by a for profit agency?

Possibly. But there would need to be tight controls on costs and very specific language with regards to reinvesting profits
 
tayser
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:39 am

jfklganyc wrote:
US has mostly government run facilities

They are pretty bad.

Depends on the entity, the cost structure and the fee structure in place.

JFK LGA and EWR have the highest costs in the nation.

These costs are floating a bloated agency where a majority of employees make six figure salaries

The facilities themselves are sup par.

The NYC airports were almost privatized. 9/11 scuttled that.

Would they work better run by a for profit agency?

Possibly. But their would need to be tight controls on costs and very specific language with regards to reinvesting profits


Contrast this with Melbourne - Tullamarine. Like all the big state capital airports, the Federal Government sold leases (50 or 99 years) back in the 90s so we have a decent, long, history of how these airports have performed whilst being managed by private operators.

Just last month it was decided to ditch the plans to add a third runway by adding a second east-west runway and now it's possibly going to be north-south, delaying the project more and potentially making all the public consultation done to date on runway expansion utterly useless.

You'd expect this with a wishy washy public-owned and operated airport, that is of course, if you subscribe to the dogma that the private sector knows best............ pah!
 
vinniewinnie
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:49 am

Whether it is public or private doesn’t matter. What matters is how it is being run and what kind of monopoly/market power the airport has.

Heathrow is privately run yet has been generally subpar in terms of quality. One may argue that it is because it is regulated but in reality ferrovial/BAA could have milked airlines so much if it hadn’t been regulated!
 
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jsnww81
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:56 pm

Pros and cons to privatization for sure. On the pro side, decisions can generally be made faster by a for-profit entity (the Melbourne example given above notwithstanding) and with less focus on pandering to voters and special-interest groups.

On the con side, privatized airports generally only focus on aspects of the passenger experience that make money. The London airports are probably the most egregious examples - investments emphasize retail to the detriment of just about everything else, and even the new buildings are set up to maximize exposure to shopping. Things like adequate seating at gates, wide concourses, sufficient circulation space - those don't make money and are not considered. That's how you end up with shiny new buildings like LHR T2 and T5; they're pretty on the outside, but inside they're just massive warrens of shopping.
 
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flyingclrs727
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 2:00 am

jsnww81 wrote:
Pros and cons to privatization for sure. On the pro side, decisions can generally be made faster by a for-profit entity (the Melbourne example given above notwithstanding) and with less focus on pandering to voters and special-interest groups.

On the con side, privatized airports generally only focus on aspects of the passenger experience that make money. The London airports are probably the most egregious examples - investments emphasize retail to the detriment of just about everything else, and even the new buildings are set up to maximize exposure to shopping. Things like adequate seating at gates, wide concourses, sufficient circulation space - those don't make money and are not considered. That's how you end up with shiny new buildings like LHR T2 and T5; they're pretty on the outside, but inside they're just massive warrens of shopping.


What I hated about Heathrow most was that they would not tell me and my at the time 78 year old mother which gate our flight would use more than 45 minutes on advance. This policy is used to encourage people to spend as much time as possible shopping. It's bad enough for a young or middle aged able bodied person to have to negotiate large crowded terminals in that amount of time. It's much worse that my mother had had her second knee replacement just 13 months earlier and isn't such a fast walker anymore.
 
axiom
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:44 am

Indeed, not sure the private v public distinction is a useful one for evaluating airport performance. Those who have spent time in large UK airports, be it LHR T5’s glitzy shopping mall hell-hole or the true cattle cage that is MAN T1, could make a very compelling argument against private capital skimming rent off public goods. On the other hand, I can think of many fantastic public airports in the US, like my once-home at TPA. I agree with others who point to other factors - like local culture and monopoly status - as other complementary ways to think about airport costs, performance, etc.
 
RickNRoll
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:33 am

LAX772LR wrote:
There may be some effect. I'm not qualified to say what that is, and it's doubtful anyone else here would be either....

..but that said, it's not a primary one. First and foremost, the market will dictate an airline's desire to be at a given gateway. The best-run hub in the world with no demand, isn't one where an airline would want to be.

Yet we've seen over the decades airlines put up with subpar facilities in (certain areas of) the likes of LHR, EWR, MIA, JFK, CDG, formerly Kai Tak, LAX, etc-- because of the demand those places generated.
That's where you get the "not a market" effect. Airports are often a monopoly. In Australia they make more money from car parking the business model becomes so dysfunctional.
 
Toinou
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:01 am

I wonder if the aspect of monopoly is so relevant. Heathrow was commented negatively in most posts here and one can hardly say this airport has a monopoly. The concept of concurrence is complex here: for airlines, it is rarely a completely free choice between airports in an area as an airport is not a one to one replacement to another in the same area; for the passenger, it is not a lot more as he may frequently not enjoy the choice of which airport to depart form for many reasons (including some destinations not offered from every airport).
All that to say that the free market concept may work very well when a customer has to chose his local supermarket or restaurant but not so for an airport.
 
mutu
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:03 am

flyingclrs727 wrote:
jsnww81 wrote:
Pros and cons to privatization for sure. On the pro side, decisions can generally be made faster by a for-profit entity (the Melbourne example given above notwithstanding) and with less focus on pandering to voters and special-interest groups.

On the con side, privatized airports generally only focus on aspects of the passenger experience that make money. The London airports are probably the most egregious examples - investments emphasize retail to the detriment of just about everything else, and even the new buildings are set up to maximize exposure to shopping. Things like adequate seating at gates, wide concourses, sufficient circulation space - those don't make money and are not considered. That's how you end up with shiny new buildings like LHR T2 and T5; they're pretty on the outside, but inside they're just massive warrens of shopping.


What I hated about Heathrow most was that they would not tell me and my at the time 78 year old mother which gate our flight would use more than 45 minutes on advance. This policy is used to encourage people to spend as much time as possible shopping. It's bad enough for a young or middle aged able bodied person to have to negotiate large crowded terminals in that amount of time. It's much worse that my mother had had her second knee replacement just 13 months earlier and isn't such a fast walker anymore.


This is a myth. LHR is slot controlled but the number of available gates at any moment in time is not linked to the landing slot. So in most cases during peak hours the airport does not k ow what gate will.be allocated to a specific flight. For off peak periods there is a more regular flight gate match.

But it's a systems thing. Not a shopping thing.
 
airbazar
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:22 am

mutu wrote:

This is a myth. LHR is slot controlled but the number of available gates at any moment in time is not linked to the landing slot. So in most cases during peak hours the airport does not k ow what gate will.be allocated to a specific flight. For off peak periods there is a more regular flight gate match.

But it's a systems thing. Not a shopping thing.


Interesting, I was told that was a security thing. IIRC that practice started in the 70's (or maybe early 80's), following a rash of airport attacks in Europe.
 
TObound
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:29 pm

I prefer the Canadian model for airports. The Canadian government privatized airports over a decade and a half ago. But gave them all to local not-for-profit airport authorities who are mandated to develop the airport.

There will be people who argue that airport user fees in Canada are high. And that is true. But our national airports, run by these AAs are better maintained. And produce several hundred million in profit for the federal government annually. Take away the federal profit and these AAs are very cost-effective at what they do.
 
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flyingclrs727
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 1:19 pm

mutu wrote:
flyingclrs727 wrote:
jsnww81 wrote:
Pros and cons to privatization for sure. On the pro side, decisions can generally be made faster by a for-profit entity (the Melbourne example given above notwithstanding) and with less focus on pandering to voters and special-interest groups.

On the con side, privatized airports generally only focus on aspects of the passenger experience that make money. The London airports are probably the most egregious examples - investments emphasize retail to the detriment of just about everything else, and even the new buildings are set up to maximize exposure to shopping. Things like adequate seating at gates, wide concourses, sufficient circulation space - those don't make money and are not considered. That's how you end up with shiny new buildings like LHR T2 and T5; they're pretty on the outside, but inside they're just massive warrens of shopping.


What I hated about Heathrow most was that they would not tell me and my at the time 78 year old mother which gate our flight would use more than 45 minutes on advance. This policy is used to encourage people to spend as much time as possible shopping. It's bad enough for a young or middle aged able bodied person to have to negotiate large crowded terminals in that amount of time. It's much worse that my mother had had her second knee replacement just 13 months earlier and isn't such a fast walker anymore.


This is a myth. LHR is slot controlled but the number of available gates at any moment in time is not linked to the landing slot. So in most cases during peak hours the airport does not k ow what gate will.be allocated to a specific flight. For off peak periods there is a more regular flight gate match.

But it's a systems thing. Not a shopping thing.


What is offpeak at an airport that is at 99% of slot capacity?
 
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LAX772LR
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:49 pm

RickNRoll wrote:
Airports are often a monopoly.

Oh gosh, here we go, with the most misused (and apparently, misunderstood) word in all of AvGeekdom.

But go ahead, explain why an airport is "often a monopoly"....
I myself, suspect a more prosaic motive... ~Thranduil
 
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Aesma
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sun Aug 04, 2019 12:12 am

ADP is a public company, but 50,6% owned by the French state. In practice it's run like a private company, AFAIK, but a number of French people don't seem to agree, as the government is planning a privatization (basically selling it to Vinci), and parliamentarians have stopped the move, calling for a referendum on the issue. Several hundred thousand people have signed up to push for the referendum (4,7 million signatures are needed).
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
77H
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sun Aug 04, 2019 1:25 am

MIflyer12 wrote:
On the right, largely from the point of ideology (as in, they can't point to studies and data) they argue that private-sector management will be more efficient, yielding profits AND lower costs as 'entrepreneurial businesses'. On the other side, why would you have private ownership and/or management of an expensive public asset? I mean, Germany doesn't have private companies manage its elementary schools, does it?

There are lots of data on U.S. per-enplanement passenger costs, including some privately owned terminals. If anything, U.S. carriers within the last decade have recognized the need for expanded facilities and have pushed for expansion and renewal using (some of) their own money: JFK, LGA, LAX...


In the US, all major airports are public. I have limited exposure to privatized major airports so I can’t speak to specific pros and cons to privatized airports. However, there have been countless public airport infrastructure scandals and fiascos in the US, from cost and completion deadline overruns to cases where defects are found in completed projects due to substandard workmanship that impact use.

My understanding is that DEN was plagued with problems upon opening with issues including malfunctioning baggage systems, malfunctioning trains and issues with the concrete on parts of the ramp, taxiways and runways. There was just an article talking about the rampant corruption surrounding projects at O’Hare spanning decades while the NYC area airports have had their fair share of scandals as well. Many of these issues can be attributed to the type cronyism and pay for play antics that are very much part and parcel to public infrastructure projects, regardless of political party.

The belief that the private sector is often more efficient in terms of cost and completion timeline stems from the fact that private projects are largely funded by private investment. These investments often come with very clear expectations regarding returns on investment. In order to keep the faith of private investors, private companies overseeing private infrastructure or real estate projects are more likely to operate in a way that ensures maximum ROI in as short a time as possible. As such, you are far less likely to encounter things like cronyism and pay for play antics as the expectation is the private sector is going to choose construction contractors based on merit and price and not who they know or how much they donate.

For example, If your buddy owns a construction company, but his company is known for shoddy work, you’re less likely to choose him as your project’s GC because any issues his company causes that result in costs over runs or delays to market will be your problem to answer for to your investors.
Additionally, many companies that engage in pay for play schemes are often under qualified to do the requisite work. Despite this, they “donate” up front to up their chances of winning a bid. One reason to do this is if you think that you can recoup that initial donation money and more by submitting change order after change order once the project gets under way. The private sector is less likely to partake in this understanding there is likely a reason this company would pay for bid consideration. Again, any missteps and you’re back answering to your investors.

Contrast that with the public sector. The investment money often comes in the form of taxes, where the taxpayer is a captive investor. If you’re not worried about the money drying up and you can keep your investors distracted with other issues, the thought of acting in a self serving manner becomes very enticing.

Good example of the difference between public and private projects close to me is the Honolulu Light Rail vs the redevelopment of Kaka’ako, a district within urban Honolulu. The start of construction for the rail line closely coincided with the redevelopment of this urban district around 2014. Overall, the rail line is nearly 10 years behind schedule (construction was supposed to start in ‘09) and some estimates put the project at $6Bn over budget. At current, the project isn’t even half way finished. There are numerous federal investigations on-going, looking for possible signs of corruption and mismanagement.

The private redevelopment of the Kakaako district has seen 8 high rises built since 2014 on time and on budget. As a matter of fact, Howard Hughes, the developer has stated a good portion of their profits last year and this year are as a result of the re-development project they are managing.

77H
 
Jetty
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:13 am

Corruption seems rife at many airports around the world and is detrimental for the passenger experience, this is less likely to occur at at private airports. But the best airports around the world are publicly owned by countries that have a political agenda favorable towards aviation.

Thus: corrupt public airport < privately owned airport < publicly owned rationally run airport (SIN/ICN/DOH/AMS/MUC etc.)
 
Sokes
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Re: Effect of hub airports being for-profit

Sun Aug 04, 2019 6:10 am

I shall discuss technical monopolies in general, not airport specific. If not interested, skip this post.

Even Milton Friedman in his book "capitalism and freedom" acknowledges that technical monopolies are a tricky question. He tended more to private ownership, but made clear he had doubts.
1) In Germany in the 1980s technical monopolies (telecom, railways, water supply...) were mostly governmental, electricity distribution being one exception. Workers in these companies got high salaries. So yes, private is probably cheaper.
2) Unions were also strong. Big companies had to pay high salaries. Incapable or lazy people could live on government spending.
So somebody who made 10th standard followed by some professional course had one or two classmates working for a high paying government owned companies and another two people working for high paying blue chip companies. Jealousy made sure he also demanded a proper salary. Not as high as these privileged classmates, but still good.
Now a lot of technical monopoly jobs are private and not well paid.
Big companies had to pay high to workers who were already used to the high salaries. But they were given the chance to rent new laborers from another company (secondment). Legally there has to be same salary for same work. I don't know exactly how it works, but workers are not happy.
Unions played along, as old union members got more job security. In case of recession the secondment guys get fired first. In short, the German unions are a traitor to their class.
The number of secondment jobs is below 1 million. Not so high, but important is the psychological effect on salary expectations.
3) Lazy people aren't allowed to be lazy anymore. Unless one is mentally/ bodily disabled, one has to accept a job. This put enormous pressure on starting salaries.
These three factors together lowered salary expectations.

The job market is not a functioning offer/ demand market. The Social democrat party some years back demanded a minimum wage. Somebody working on the counter of a petrol pump in Munich told me his salary was only a little higher than what minimum salary was demanded. One can't use an idiot at a petrol pump and Munich has high cost of living. I wondered how in an economic weak area somebody with low capacity should get this salary. The minimum salary came. The job market was still empty. I was amazed how dysfunctional job markets really are. It seems a minimum salary is only harmful for countries with trade deficit.

There are reasons why Germany has huge trade surplus. I believe government owned technical monopolies are the pinch of socialism that makes the capitalist dish tasty. And I'm quite a Milton Friedman fundamentalist.
Contradicting view: Had developing countries all over the world prospered the last decade without Chinese and German trade surplus?

I believe that technical monopolies should be government owned is not true for developing countries.
In India master craftsmen are willing to pay ridiculous high rent for a workshop to a politician or his relatives. In exchange they can phone the politician if income tax troubles. Moreover they don't need to pay for electricity. There will be a connection bypassing the meter.
One supermarket installed a huge air conditioning. I asked the owner how his electricity bill changed. He said "a lot". Another time I asked a restaurant owner with many fridges about his electricity bill. His answer was not plausible.
There is always a shortage of train seats. Often there is no real shortage. Certain people can get a seat for a bribe.
I don't know about other technical monopolies, but my faith in government owned enterprises for developing countries is rather limited.

To come back to the question if airports should be governmental: There are a lot more factors to consider than just the service at the airport.
Why can't the world be a little bit more autistic?

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