Date of Conferral







Carol Wells


This qualitative case study was used to examine the Request for Proposal (RFP) evaluation process used by airports for selecting concessions business operators, including retail and duty-free gift shops, restaurants, newsstands, and public parking. The case consisted of 42 purposefully selected RFPs from 35 airports representing 92% of all U.S. commercial airline passenger traffic compared against guidelines found in Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Report 54. A problem occurs when evaluation outcomes are challenged because of perceptions of bias, and formal protests and legal claims create delays that disproportionately affect small and minority-owned businesses. The purpose of this study was to compare RFP documents for congruence and influences of concessionaire evaluation ratings. Qualitative data analysis, qualitative content analysis, and interpretive coding were used to explain socioeconomic factors inferred from the documents. Gaps existed in available literature for the effect of airport size, governance type, and evaluator motivation on the RFP process. Study findings showed weighted evaluation criteria inconsistencies with the guidelines, evidence of innate governance system influences, government-operated airport RFP preference of revenue generation measures and socioeconomic attachments, independent authority operated preferences for command and control measures, and potential for the use of standardized core evaluation criteria. By challenging the premise of a bias-free government procurement process, positive social change was achievable through this study's reinforcement of federally qualified small and minority business expansion initiatives promoting open participation and fair competition in concessions opportunities at U.S. commercial passenger airports.