Chamber Insider Blog

Eye on Loudoun: Soaring Costs at Our Airport!

Post by Government Relations Manager, Eric C. Johnson

Did you hear? It is about to get even more expensive to fly in and out of Dulles Airport, thanks to a move by the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) to self-impose a higher minimum wage on the employees of contract vendors.

Minimum wage at both Dulles and Reagan will shoot up to $11.55 on January 1, 2018 and will be nearly $13 by 2020! The new Airport Workers Wage Policy applies to those who provide support services to the airlines (such as cleaning the aircraft, refueling the aircraft, fixing the aircraft, and deicing the aircraft) and those providing concession services to the airlines and airport.

Starting in January, the functional minimum wage at Dulles will be higher than the minimum wage rates at Charlotte, Baltimore, Chicago, San Diego, New York City, and New Jersey. Think about that for a minute! Wage costs will be lower at JFK and LaGuardia than they are at Dulles!

The Loudoun Chamber urged MWAA to reject this proposal which will have the unfortunate impact of raising the cost on air passengers using Dulles. While the Chamber has long been a supporter of MWAA and efforts to improve the competitiveness of the airport, this action we cannot support.

Other groups spoke out in opposition, such as the Virginia Chamber, Airlines for America, the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association, and these local chambers of commerce: Dulles Regional, Northern Virginia, Prince William, Greater Reston, and Greater Springfield.

This move impacts more than 4,500 workers, and will drive up the price you pay for everything from your Starbucks and Smashburger to the book and bottled water you buy at Hudson News. If you work at Dulles, you will see your pay go up, up, up. And if you fly, your fares will likely go up as well.

Let’s not forget that it won’t just be the lowest paid employees that see a pay bump. So will all employees. That’s how markets work, even labor markets. After all, a supervisor won’t settle for making as much as the employees that report to them.

MWAA’s actions will threaten the progress that has been achieved to make our region’s airport system more competitive. They have caved to union pressure and imposed a labor cost increase that will lessen Dulles and Reagan airports’ competitiveness.

Not all contract workers at Dulles are unionized – but the unions still managed to exert their will. And guess what – despite the increase, the unions are not happy. “It is not everything we wanted, but it is a huge first step,” said Jaime Contreras, vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ. So, if they didn’t get everything they wanted, what do you think that means? You got it – they will be back for more.

This move makes Dulles less attractive for travelers and airline operators. And that isn’t good news for Loudoun. The airlines will either increase fares to cover these new labor costs, or they will reduce services and cut jobs to save money on the back end.

This move will have a direct impact on those flying into and out of Dulles as well as the community. Loudoun County has made substantial investments to improve its reputation as a place to do business. A move like this raises the cost of doing business and is counterproductive to the work the Chamber and the Loudoun County government have done on behalf of the airport.

To read the Chamber’s letter to the MWAA Board on this issue, click here.

To get more involved in the Loudoun Chamber’s Public Policy Committee, contact Eric Johnson, ejohnson@loudounchamber.org

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