On 31 December 2021, after three years of leading the ACI World Governing Board (WGB), Martin Eurnekian will step down as Chair. He will continue to provide guidance as Immediate Past Chair in the coming years. He has sat down to discuss his time as ACI World’s Chair with our members and readership.
A pandemic is such a disruptive and unforeseen event that it alters everyone’s plans. ACI was not the exception, and tough decisions had to be made. Airports were seeing their operations significantly reduced or even totally put on hold.
In this context, our priority was to be the voice of the world’s airports. During the initial shutdown, the first step was to communicate that airports were being heavily hit, and that most government aid was being directed to airlines, and not to airports or other partners of our industry.
During this period of many unknowns, we also focused on asking authorities to clarify the rules and protocols in order to resume operations as soon as possible. We closely followed different restrictions or measures taken by governments to give visibility when something was working, and which could be used as a good practice in other countries.
It was also very important to transmit a message of encouragement and appreciation for the aviation community around the globe that were keeping things running and helping the humanitarian flights take place.
I think my experience in different countries and different regions has helped me see things with a broad perspective. Corporacion America Airports operates in different countries with different realities and I understand that each place and culture has its particularities.
I have experienced first-hand private-public collaborations and have seen their incredible achievements in different parts of the world.
My experience helps me to understand the issues—big and small—that airports face, both in fully developed or developing countries. I also value the benefits and productivity that the airport systems can produce, and I think that is also a practical insight to bring to the table.
Of course, my expectations changed when the pandemic hit. I was only a year or so into the role, and hoping to develop an agenda based on customer experience, digital transformation, and other challenges faced by our industry.
However, we had to think on our feet and adapt. We had to focus on the importance of new protocols, in protecting the health and safety of travellers and staff around the world, and the challenges that were literally threatening the survival of our industry as we know it. After these last two years, and with recovery already starting, I am proud of how we managed to go through the crisis and truly believe we are coming out more united, and with a clearer message.
The Omicron variant has once again brought into focus the fragility of air transport’s recovery and the urgent need for governments to coordinate and implement evidence-based travel measures. This remains the main message to get across to regulators.
I would like to see lessons learnt from the crisis applied and adapted as we move forward. For instance, for security, this means favoring intelligence-driven, risk-based, outcome-focused approach, rather than one-size-fits-all prescribed measures.
Health and digitalization will be driving factors in the customer experience. We need to truly understand our customers to increase the resilience of our business models. The use of data is key to gaining insights into evolving customer preferences and habits, not to mention improving efficiency.
Sustainability is a must as we move forward and grow as a sector—some things simply can’t be left aside. Social, environmental, and economic sustainability must be at the core of our business strategies.
And finally, I would like to see the board continue to leverage ACI as an important platform to convey the airport perspective to the international community. I am confident that the ACI World Governing Board can lead our industry to a future of collaboration, where all parts of the aviation ecosystem can be positively impacted.
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.