This chapter examines the main methodological issues involved in the comprehension of the cost structure of the airport industry and suggests considerations for future airport cost analyses. Such understanding has become a crucial concern for policy makers, regional planners, and managers in order to deal with optimal market design (e.g., regulation and market configuration) and airport strategies (e.g., pricing, investments, and alliances). An in-depth analysis of the economics of cost functions is presented, together with a description of the relevant multi-output cost economies measures (average incremental costs, scale and scope economies, and cost complementarities). We also discuss the assumptions underlying estimates of total versus variable cost functions and the importance of estimating a sufficiently flexible functional form. Moreover, we provide a critical survey of the international empirical literature on the cost structure of the airport industry, which highlights how econometric estimates strongly depend on the sample choice and the empirical model considered. Indeed, while econometric studies on international samples based on long-run cost function estimates show that long-run scale economies are never exhausted, single country studies mostly estimate variable cost functions and find lower values for scale economies at median sample points that tend to decrease with size. We discuss why we believe that studies based on the estimation of short-run variable cost functions offer more reliable results, given the reasonable assumption of airport overcapitalization in the short run. We conclude our work by noting that underlying policy issues related to planning and regulation, as well as to the optimal market structure of the airport sector, need to take into account the role played by vertical relationships between airports and airlines.
Bottasso, A. and Conti, M. (2017), "The Cost Structure of the Airport Industry: Methodological Issues and Empirical Evidence
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