Over the course of the year, readers of ACI Insights will have the opportunity to meet each ACI World Governing Board (WGB) member. This article features Mr. Andrew O’Brian, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of QUIPORT – Quito International Airport – and President of ACI Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mr. O’Brian has been part of a global team of lenders, investors, developers, and engineers to finance, build, and operate a brand-new Greenfield international airport in the city of Quito, at 2700 meters in the high Andes Mountains of Ecuador. The airport today provides 8,000 full time jobs to the community with hundreds of millions of dollars of direct and indirect impact to the city and the country; while passenger air service and cargo has grown year on year since opening in 2013. Under his leadership, the Quito Airport has received close to 30 industry and passenger awards.
Leader – the ability to motivate teams to overcome challenges and achieve great results through effective communication, coaching, and a willingness to learn and teach. Our professional management team enjoys challenges and their role as “pioneers” in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region with regards to our customer centric approach. It is rewarding and humbling to lead such a strong team of committed airport professionals at the Quito International Airport.
The airport industry is currently at a crossroad facing various challenges. Therefore, it is important to develop strategies that allow us to accommodate passenger traffic growth with proper infrastructure and services, which requires carefully directed capital investment.
At the same time, we must meet the challenge of reducing global warming in our aviation industry. The global airport sector is acutely aware of the need to develop cleaner operations. ACI World and the WGB are working actively to address this issue and to set ambitious yet attainable targets going forward as evidenced by a recent and positive approach set by the ACI Europe group of airport members; this way we can ensure the sustainability of our industry.
Another major challenge is ensuring that the economic impact of airport activity reaches more deeply into the regions they represent, with the goal that airports strengthen their roles as true “airport cities”. For this, it is important to open the door to working in closer collaboration with the communities that live in the areas of influence of airports. In the LAC region, this involves significant stakeholder engagement, identifying training opportunities along with education and communication of the airport’s value and our strategic plans. This is acute in our region as most of the airports have undergone some level of privatization; most in line with the “3P” model of public/private participation contracts.
Finally, and quite importantly is the strengthening of airports’ relations with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on a global scale. This feeds back into our commitment to develop the industry of the aviation authorities of each country; and cooperation with airlines as natural allies of the industry. A great example is the work done at ACI to involve the regulator, the airline, and the airport to successfully tackle difficult and contentious issues such as slot management. Through the ACI WGB and interaction with ACI World, we are well-equipped to carry forward a critical ICAO based project back to our LAC region for local engagement.
Being part of the WGB of ACI World, as well as a great responsibility, is above all an opportunity. Through representation of the LAC region, our main objective is to make sure the voices of airports in this region are in sync with the key drivers our industry faces around the world. We all face similar challenges and the ACI WGB is the high-level forum to share experiences, drive strategy, and navigate politics, together.
At the same time, our airports have their own unique hurdles and opportunities, and we are open to learning from the experiences of other regions; we have much to learn and teach from each member with regards to how we are solving issues that affect the whole industry.
We understand that we are being called upon to contribute to strengthening the organization and growing our airport collective voice and this is exactly what we will like to accomplish during our tenure on this Board.
Our LAC region will see a doubling in traffic in the next 10 years, both cargo and passenger, so we must be ready to meet that demand which comes with many challenges. However, we strongly believe that in order to overcome any obstacles and embrace that growth and change, we need to address a significant challenge: improving cooperation, collaboration, and communication that exist among the main industry players – airlines, regulators/state, and airports.
Indeed, there are forums where we come together and discuss key threats and opportunities, however, we are still witness to a competitive or independent approach taken by some key actors in the aviation sector. We must evolve to embrace a one-voice approach on specific key issues that will allow us to share information, understand different points of views, determine integrated solutions and as such jointly develop strategies to tackle the many challenges our industry faces. We need to start from the basics; the “3 C’s”.
Many challenges and opportunities await our industry and all stakeholders need to be ready to embrace them efficiently.
How do we do that? A great starting point is the latest book from my friend and renowned aviation industry professional Mr. Pierre Coutu – Programme Executive of the Global Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme (AMPAP).
During the last ACI World Governing Board meeting, Mr. Coutu shared a copy of his book – written in collaboration with other very well-respected airport professionals – “Global Megatrends and Aviation: A Path to Future-Wise Organizations.”
The book clearly outlines the main challenges our industry is facing including: Climate change, global economic shift from west to east, increasing urbanization, demographic changes, technological innovation and global connectedness.
It is an interesting read that opens one’s eyes to the main changes that are happening and encourages the reader to adapt to the changes and mitigate any negative impacts. It provides a framework to determine how resilient we are and what we must embrace going forward.
Before joining QUIPORT, Mr. O’Brian was CEO of AERODOM in the Dominican Republic; a challenging package of 6 airports with significant political risk to multilateral lenders, investors, and substantial capital investment programmes wrapped into a volatile Latin American business environment.
Mr. O’Brian is a sought-after speaker in several industry conferences. He holds an MBA with a specialization in Aviation from the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal, a Diploma in International Management from Vancouver’s Capilano University and a BA in Political Science from British Columbia’s University of Victoria.
The ACI World Governing Board (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.
The ACI WGB 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 programme of activities, policy statements and participation in the work of other world bodies, among other duties.