Buying food or drink at an airport is pretty much always a pricey proposition. Now imagine how much more that bottle of water or turkey sandwich for the plane might cost if the Miami-Dade County Commission lifts price controls on concessionaires at Miami International Airport.
That’s what the commission will vote on Wednesday. It’s part of a broader deal at MIA in which the county would allow no-bid extensions of leases for airport businesses and, in exchange, tenants would immediately implement a $17-an-hour living-wage for private-sector workers. The living-wage requirement won commission approval in 2018, but only goes into effect when airport business locations are put out to bid. This deal would make it happen right away.
But the airport deal also includes this little nugget: an end to the county’s “competitive pricing” rules that allow retailers to charge no more than 10% to 15% above market prices in the Miami area.
That’s anti-passenger and anti-consumer.
We understand the need for airport workers to earn a living wage, and we support that effort. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of the passengers that the airport is supposed to serve.
We also understand that the airport concessionaires were hurt badly during the pandemic. Many of them are locally owned businesses, and we want to support them.
Tourism is up again
Tourism is returning now, though — it remains unclear whether the Omicron variant will erode that — and Art Basel is bringing visitors back in droves. MIA expects an average of 130,000 daily passengers from Dec. 1-3, a 5% increase over the same period two years ago, the Miami Herald reported. That kind of traffic should at least begin to help businesses recover.
No-bid extensions of leases at the airport have, sadly, become routine in this town. But lifting price caps and sticking passengers with higher prices is not just a bad idea, it’s also out of step with other airports. The Herald reported that Florida’s other major airports control pricing, with the Palm Beach County airport requiring “street pricing” on food and beverages, Orlando requiring “reasonable” prices, Tampa capping at 10% and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International at 11%.
Miami-Dade officials are proud to point out that MIA was just ranked by JD Powers as having the highest passenger satisfaction among “mega” airports in the country. Whether that represents a true evaluation or not — and we have our doubts — there is no question that allowing concessionaires to charge a captive airport audience whatever they want for food and drinks isn’t just short-sighted, it’s bad business.