Election 2022

If voters approve, Philadelphia’s airports will get their own cabinet-level department

The ballot question would give airport officials a seat at the table for budget discussions, which they say could help make operations more efficient.

An airplane pulls up to a gate at Philadelphia International Airport

An airplane pulls up to a gate at Philadelphia International Airport

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

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Owned and operated by the city, Philadelphia International Airport serves over 32 million passengers annually and has 500 departures a day. Yet its leadership doesn’t report directly to the mayor — it’s nested inside the Department of Commerce.

That may soon change, if voters say yes to creating a Department of Aviation, which would oversee the city’s two airports, a major economic generator for the region.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Should the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the Department of Aviation and to transfer certain functions related to the operations of City airports from the other City agencies to the Department of Aviation?

What it means

Voting yes on this question would mean you want to create the Department of Aviation as a new department to oversee the Philadelphia International Airport and the Northeast Philadelphia Airport. The director of this department would report to the mayor.

The city currently has a Division of Aviation within the Commerce Department, with an operating budget of more than $380 million.

The newly appointed CEO of PHL Airport is Atif Saeed, who currently oversees six airports in Minnesota including Minneapolis-St. Paul International. His tenure in Philly begins Dec. 1.

In hearings about the potential change, then-airport CEO Chellie Cameron said a standalone department would be able to make decisions more efficiently and complete projects more easily. It would also give airports more discretion with their workforces and would give the airports a more prominent seat at the table for budget hearings and other important decisions, Cameron said.

Supporters of the change have noted it will be helpful for their airports to have more agency as the city economy continues recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Who’s for it?

Airport officials, the mayor’s office, Council President Darrell Clarke, and Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who co-sponsored the bill and whose district encompasses PHL Airport.

Who’s against it?

During hearings on the issue in May, nobody spoke in opposition to the change.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2022 stories.

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