Interview with Candace S. McGraw as ACI World’s new Vice Chair

Sabrina Guerrieri by Sabrina Guerrieri | Jan 25, 2022

On 1 January 2022, Candace S. McGraw succeeded Sheik Aimen Al Hosni as ACI World’s Vice Chair. Candace was previously ACI World’s Treasurer and has been an active member of the ACI World Governing Board since 2018. She has sat down to discuss her time on the board and her vision for the next two years as Vice Chair with our members and readership.

Q1: You have been an active member of the board since 2018, well before the pandemic struck. How did COVID-19 alter your focus in representing ACI members’ interests and what became your main priorities?

ACI is the global voice advocating for excellence in our airport industry. That excellence can only be achieved through collaboration and partnership. As such, it has always been important to me to be actively involved in both ACI’s North American region and in the global organization.

The COVID-19 crisis only heightened the awareness of the interconnectivity of our industry and the necessity to view the aviation system in its totality. The two main areas of focus during the deepest part of the pandemic were physical safety and financial survival—for airports generally, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) specifically, and for the ACI organization as well.

As ACI Treasurer, I want to commend Felipe and his team for their successful efforts to assist airports in navigating the myriad regulatory challenges resulting from the pandemic while being mindful of the financial sustainability of the ACI organization. It was quite a challenge to overcome, and they did so successfully. Now the next phase of work will center on recovery and rebuilding the aviation business throughout each of the regions; as a global industry, we are only strong when we are coordinated and successful in every region.

While we all face unique issues at our airports, collectively I am proud of how we’ve come together to facilitate cross-border commerce, such as the transport of vaccine, as well as continued the business of moving people and goods around the world under very challenging circumstances.

Q2: You have a wealth of experience in the industry and are currently CEO of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International. How has your experience served the board and our members?

I began my career as a young lawyer for the Cleveland Airport System over 30 years ago and am grateful to have now served for more than 10 years as CEO of CVG. The experience of learning the business from the legal side forces you to focus on details—whether it be in handling airline agreements or interfacing with regulators. Then, as CEO, I’ve been challenged to be a leader on strategy, whether in how to diversify a business, persevere in challenging situations or in dealing with various stakeholders. I like to think these experiences have prepared me for the role with the World Governing Board. After serving as Chair of ACI-North America (NA) from 2018–2019, as well as ACI World Treasurer these last years, I’m always humbled by how much my colleagues across the globe teach me and how much I’ve yet to learn. The Board can assist the ACI team fulfill its mission through collaboration, problem-solving and leaning into the future—all things that airport leaders must do on a regular basis.

Q3: As we enter the recovery phase, what would you like to accomplish as Vice Chair in the next few years? What would like to see the board undertake?

First, I hope we can return to a cadence of regular, in-person meetings as an industry. While we must practice good public health, our industry is in the business of moving people and goods across the world and must be able to get together. Nothing can replace a handshake and a smile (even if through a mask!). The power of exchanging ideas and preparing for a post-COVID future together must remain our collective top priority. My hope is that the members and leaders of our World Governing Board will support Felipe and the ACI team to execute this vision. I would also hope that I can be of assistance to our Chair, Aimen, as he seeks to engage greater Board input and involvement.

I also hope we can continue our focus on the global concerns of the industry—sustainability, workforce, the growth of e-commerce and increase of air cargo, and the security and facilitation landscape. Of course, combining all those issues with the constant evolution of tech, biometrics, and more, and there will never be a dull moment.

Q4: Along with recovery, airport priorities for 2022 are likely to be sustainability, health and safety, and the customer experience among others. Can you describe some of the key achievements or developments from your airport that seek to improve the entire aviation ecosystem?

My team and I at CVG are proud to be North America’s 7th largest (and one of the fastest-growing) cargo airport, home to global super hubs for DHL Express and Amazon Air. Working with our partners on the cargo side as well as passenger carriers, we are forging ahead on sustainability efforts. This includes local and on-campus efforts to address energy usage and the promotion and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) across the North American and global spectrum.

At CVG, we’ve had success these last several years on the innovation front, in collaborating with startups to bring tech and talent to scale. We’ve provided an environment for and actively worked with ThorDrive to develop autonomous tugs; we’ve deployed Avidbots’ Neo, a floor-scrubbing and disinfection robotics solution; and we’ve very recently started a trial of Ottobots for a touchless, automated food and retail delivery solution from concession to gate with Ottonomy.

There is so much more work to be done at CVG, but I am proud of our team. I am personally excited to share the learnings about these successes to help other airports, both larger and smaller, to learn from our experience. We face so many challenges, whether it involves air cargo, passenger facilitation, retail, landside connectivity to our communities, infrastructure on the airfield, and more. But each of these represent an opportunity to grow, and I look forward to learning as much from our global colleagues as I might share with them.

The ACI World WGB consists of 28 representatives nominated by the regional ACI Boards, plus the Immediate Past Chair of the Board. The number of regional representatives is calculated based on each region’s share of passenger and cargo traffic.

It meets twice a year for strategic discussions on key subjects for airport operators that reflect the concerns and interests of ACI members. They also determine ACI’s worldwide policies, report to the General Assembly, approve the budget, worldwide program of activities, policy statements and participation in the work of other world bodies, among other duties.

Sabrina Guerrieri

Sabrina Guerrieri

Manager, Communications, ACI World
Sabrina Guerrieri is ACI World's Communications Manager with over 7 years of aviation experience working in corporate and B2B communications. Skilled in writing and editing, promoting and protecting brand reputation, project management, stakeholder engagement and alignment, integrated and data-driven campaigns.
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