Meet the ACI World Governing Board: Elena Mayoral

Sabrina Guerrieri by Sabrina Guerrieri | Oct 30, 2019

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 Elena Mayoral, Director of Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.

Mayoral became Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport Director on 1 April 2013. She studied Aeronautical Engineering and History of Art.  She also has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the EOI and completed her training with a Management Development Programme at IESE.

She started her career working for several engineering consulting companies, designing construction projects for airport infrastructure and air navigation systems for Spanish, British and German airports and airbases.

In 2002, she started working for Aena at the Master Plans Direction, analyzing the future development of airport infrastructures. In 2005 she was appointed Head of the office of Prospection and Analysis for Supply and Demand. 

Between 2007 and 2011, she managed Valladolid Airport and from 2011 until her appointment at Madrid-Barajas Airport, she was the Director of Ibiza Airport. 

In June 2016 she became a Board Member of ACI World.

What word describes you the best?

It is certainly difficult to choose just one word, but if have to select one, I would say perseverance.

What do you see as ACI’s primary role in the modern airport industry?

ACI is the voice of the world’s airports. Its main asset is that airports are united as an industry, and we can therefore speak with a single, clear voice. ACI plays a pivotal role in expressing the common views of airports to regulators and the rest of the aviation industry stakeholders, and, at the same time, it extends harmonized knowledge and best practices among its members.

What would you like to accomplish during your term on the ACI World Governing Board?

I believe that our goal must be to seek collaborative solutions to common issues. One of the main challenges will be the coordination between airports, airlines and slot coordinators following the new Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines agreed upon between ACI, the IATA and WWACG (slot coordinators) in 2019, and that was presented during the 40th ICAO Assembly in September. This is a new challenge that will for the first time give a voice to airports on something as relevant as how to allocate the capacity they invest in, taking into account many aspects, and of course, one of them will be sustainability.

In this sense, we must work together to achieve more sustainable airports. Madrid-Barajas has Airport Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM), which improves punctuality, reduces the cost for airlines, and mitigates the environmental impact.

Moreover, we are now fully involved in the Total Airport Management (TAM) programme, which will enable us to combine the airside of A-CDM, as I have said, and the landside (the terminals) of A-CDM, so that all airport operations are controlled in one Airport Operations Centre at Eurocontrol (APOC-NOP). This makes airport operations more efficient and improves the airport’s immediate response when it has to face incidents at check-in, security, boarding or any other airport process.

I would also like to highlight that, from an environmental perspective, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport has reduced its CO2 emissions in recent years. It has renewed its Level 2 Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, has a cogeneration plant for electrical and thermal self-consumption, and is already working on implementing a solar-photovoltaic plant which will provide the airport with clean energy.

What are some of the innovations happening at your airport and how is it benefiting airport stakeholders in a tangible way?

In addition to the environmental sustainability mentioned above, and with the aim of making airport activity more compatible with its surroundings, the airports from Aena’s network are all focusing their efforts on improving the passenger experience and innovating and developing new technologies for airport management.

We are working towards the future, towards the Airport Aena 4.0 concept. In this respect, facial recognition at passport control is already being used and in the medium-term we will have a biometric identification system which will speed up the security checks and boarding while also increasing security.

We already have systems that enable real-time control of throughputs, helping to manage and predict the necessary resources that are available at all times, such as the Automatic Return System (ATRS), which makes the security checks quicker and more convenient for passengers and their luggage.

Innovative solutions that are complemented by offering passengers the best experience possible, with an extensive commercial area featuring restaurants, specialized shops and Duty-Free shops, therefore combining quality and variety and matching the best airports in the world.

It is also essential to provide different services that may be valuable for families. The airport has different security checkpoints for passengers travelling with children, free pushchairs in the boarding area, two playrooms and 18 playgrounds across all the terminals, as well as toilets with baby changing facilities.

Airports are often described as generators of socio-economic benefits to communities, States and regions at large. How does your airport engage with and serve its surrounding community (e.g., initiatives)?

The Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport generates 10% of the GDP of the Community of Madrid. It is considered the largest company in the region. It creates 40,000 direct jobs and its activity creates 105,000 jobs in the Community of Madrid and about 300,000 across Spain.

Alongside local, regional and national institutions, it also includes a Route Development Committee, which has worked on developing Madrid as a tourist destination since 2012. The airport is currently the European gateway for Latin America (25.7% of the market) with 32 destinations and has increased connections with Asia with 10 destinations.

The airport remains actively committed to showing society the airport activity and processes. Almost 10,000 people every year learn about the facilities during tours suitable for all ages. This is a commitment to society which is supplemented by cultural exhibitions, granting charitable spaces to NGOS and caring for over 2,000 people every year on humanitarian flights.

What would you like to see come out of the upcoming ICAO Assembly?

In my opinion, strengthening the manner in which the aviation industry addresses climate change must be among ICAO’s priorities. Social awareness and the facts surrounding this great challenge leave us no option but to act urgently in a clear, responsible and harmonized way. Strong commitments have to be defined to achieve a sustainable aviation industry that is compatible with the environment.

On the other hand, it will also be essential to consolidate the agreement between airports, airlines and slot coordinators that defines the foundations of the new path on which the allocation of slots will be based in the future. ACI has done a fantastic job in promoting the initiative, and in fostering the agreement between the three parties involved. With the capacity crunch being faced in many areas of the world, it is essential to optimize the way in which capacity is allocated. Of course, it is only logical that airports have a say in how this capacity is allocated, after the significant investment efforts they have made to achieve it.


The 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.

Sabrina Guerrieri

Sabrina Guerrieri

Manager, Communications, ACI World
Sabrina Guerrieri's main responsibility is to assist the Director General, Chair and selected Directors with their speaking engagements for various ACI and external events.
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