How Much Salary You Can Earn By Making Passengers and Airlines Miserable

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is the government agency which manages Washington National and Dulles airports and has a role in construction of the metro Silver line to the airport and the Dulles Toll Road.

It has one of the worst records of incompetence and corruption among airport authorities in the country, though probably not in the league of the Port Authority of New York New Jersey or the banana republic-style cronyism of Atlanta’s airport.

Contracts go to friends, the Office of Audit doesn’t do formal audits and jobs go to unqualified friends and relatives. Much of this has gone on under current leadership.

Washington Dulles Airport

The airport authority has resisted making the new contract for its CEO public, arguing that they’re not funded with public dollars but by fees earned from running the airport. Of course the government gave them the airport, board members are appointed by government, and they receive substantial government funding for capital projects, and much of their operating revenue comes from ticket taxes.

They have finally relented and released the contract. Here’s the employment agreement.

  • Base salary of $474,000 plus bonuses of up to $232,000
  • His base salary is up $25,000 and bonus potential rises from 20% of salary to 30%
  • He gets a $90,000 retention bonus
  • Airport authority employees normally get 26 days of paid vacation, which would make most Americans jealous. He gets 39 days which is one day shy of 8 weeks. And he didn’t even need to move to Europe.
  • Annual retention bonus
  • $5,000 executive physical
  • Company car and cellphone, plus grossing up his pay to cover tax liability for the car
  • Rather than having to perform well to receive this compensation, he just has to avoid gross negligence and willful misconduct.

Washington National Airport

Only Dallas Fort-Worth airport’s CEO has a higher base salary, and “Huntley Lawrence, the head of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the nation’s fifth busiest, and also manages LaGuardia, Newark Liberty International, Stewart International and Teterboro airports, makes $265,772 a year.”

By the way there are at least 19 other MWAA employees making over $200,000 per year. (.pdf)

Mobile Lounges Still Carry Passengers at Washington Dulles

A key reason United has considered killing its Washington Dulles hub in the past is that airport costs are too high. Costs have fallen but plans are to keep United’s gates a dump.

The airport train drops many United passengers off nowhere near their gates, having built the train to take people to where they’ve planned to build a new concourse for decades but haven’t ever done so — and not stopping where the concourse has remained for years. National airport has perhaps the worst gate in the entire coutnry. Clearly they’re getting value from money out of current leadership.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I thought this was going to be an article about Scott Kirby’s salary! I guarantee he’s made a lot more passengers miserable so he must be getting paid much more.

  2. Gary, thanks for calling attention to this travesty that is the MWAA. This is what happens when you create a quasi-public entity, give them unfettered access to levy fees and sell bonds and demand no accountability in return.

    Let’s not forget about how the MWAA spent tens of billions on “capital improvements” with no oversight on the contracting process. This is how you spend $1.5 billion on an airport train THAT DOESNT GO TO ALL THE TERMINALS, another $1.5 billion digging a hole inn the ground and calling it a “security pavilion” and driving out most of the low fare airlines by raising enplanement fees to pay for the indiscriminate spending
    Did you know that C/D terminals are actually temporary buildings that were slated to be replaced 30 years ago? They have never been replaced because MWAA wants United to give them a “blank check” to build a new one and United (for all their faults) knows that if you give MWAA a blank check (Like Congress did) you will end up with a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

  3. Project Journey at DCA can’t come fast enough… also the MWAA has no business building a Metrorail line. Their foolishness will cost the region for decades.

  4. Isn’t Miami International Airport also a corruption filled swamp?

    Or have they cleaned up things there?

  5. I don’t know if he’s competent or corrupt, but around $600K for that job doesn’t sound out of line. That’s a really stressful job with a lot of responsibility. I’m sure there are executives or board members in the world that make much much more than that and have it easier. How about Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao getting paid $1.2 million to be on the board of Wells Fargo part-time then $1 to 5 million to leave and become Transportation Secretary? No corruption there.

  6. @Rico: Wells Fargo=Private Corporation, of which I do not directly own stock. Airport=Public Expenditures, for which everyone pays if Congress says so.
    The issue is not the amount of the pay, but the airport authority’s belief that they are an autonomous entity unaccountable to taxpayers.
    With transparency voters can decide how to deal with it. Without transparency, the salary could be $10 million and we would never know if the airport authority had their way.

  7. While I appreciate the update, this is merely begging for terrorist attacks at all of these airports. The lack of accountability is staggering but they are taking their cues from our federal govt agencies and committees. This Cohen guy who just plead guilty was so flagrant in his behavior because he apparently didn’t think he’d get caught, thought no one would be looking and if they did, no one would care. There are so many violations of ethics rules & regulations going on right now everywhere from Wall St to the highest office and there is no one bothering to look for it. They are literally stealing the country blind and most of us are so caught up in our own lives and glued to our computers, cell phones, tv’s etc that we don’t notice or don’t care and they KNOW IT. The agencies that were once in charge of prosecuting white collar criminals and ethics violations have been stripped to the bare bones having no funds or employees or resources left to bother to enforce what few laws haven’t been stripped off the books when no one was watching. We are turning into a banana republic right here in the U.S. with a big orange babboon at the helm.

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