The last few months have been busier that ever for ACI World and the airport and aviation community in general. Travel continues to recover and so to does in-person events across the world. It was an absolute pleasure to kick start February 2023 in Africa at the 69th ACI Africa Board Meeting, Regional Committees, Conference, and Exhibition in Kigali, Rwanda – a country bustling with development, not least in aviation. This was apparent with the honor to gather and discuss with Rwanda’s President H.E. Paul Kegame.
The event took place under the theme “Shaping up a Sustainable African Airport Industry: Time for Action,” and was graciously hosted by Rwanda Airports Company. I was pleased to participate in the event with my colleagues Ali Tounsi, Secretary General of ACI Africa, Emanuel Chaves, President of ACI Africa, as well as host Charles Habonimana, Managing Director of Rwanda Airports Company, and Rwandan Dignitaries Jules Ndemga, CEO, Aviation and Logistics and Dr. Ernest Nsabimana Minister of Infrastructure.
From there, I flew to Bahrain for the bi-annual ACI World Governing Board (WGB) Meetings that took place from 3–5 March. The ACI WGB consists of airport CEOs from around the world, who also partake in their respective ACI regional boards. The strategic discussions cantered on key subjects that reflect the concerns and interests of our members. We extend a special thank you to Bahrain Airports Company CEO Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah for going above and beyond as host, and ACI World Chair and CEO of Oman Airports Management Company Sheik Aimen Alhosni for his ongoing leadership. What we accomplish as the trade organization of the world’s airports could not be possible without the dedication of every WGB member and we look forward to meeting again soon at the ACI EUROPE / ACI WORLD Annual General Assembly Conference, and Exhibition, in Barcelona, Spain at the end of June.
Shortly after, ACI World strengthened its partnership with a crucial player of the aviation ecosystem: air navigation service providers. We were thrilled to participate at CANSO’s Airspace World in Geneva in early March. In addition to sharing the airport perspective, ACI World and CANSO launched the Airport System Capacity Enhancement (ASCE) program aimed at removing the barriers to unlocking airport capacity and supporting the sustainable growth of air travel demand.
The ASCE program provides a comprehensive onsite review led by industry peers and experts to optimize the use of airport system capacity, both in the air and on the ground. The airports and ANSPs being reviewed benefit from an assessment tailored to their unique needs and receive expertise, practical recommendations, and targeted solutions that contribute to their long-term capacity usage and operational efficiency.
The ASCE program is one of the core areas of cooperation to come from a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed at the event between both organizations. The MoU will see closer levels of collaboration between both organizations to promote the safe, efficient, and sustainable development of civil aviation.
Continuing strongly, a full ACI World delegation participated in one of the largest aviation events: the Passenger Terminal Expo and Conference. I was thrilled to take the stage with colleague Jeff Poole, former aviation industry leader on the evolution of the passenger experience, as well as participate in a fruitful discussion on what lies ahead for aviation with c-level CEOs. Antoine Rostworowski, ACI World’s Senior VP, Programs and Commercial, as well as Dimitri Coll, ACI World’s VP of Customer Experience also presented on numerous occasions, in addition to other ACI World experts. Our booth was visited by countless of delegates, eager to learn about ACI World, and what we do to support our members across the world. It was an excellent opportunity to meet with our airport CEO and executives from across the world including from Keflavik International Airport, Singapore Changi Airport, Hamad International Airport, and the General Authority of Civil Aviation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Upon my return to Montréal, we were able to both build on and celebrate our long-standing collaboration with Montréal International and its financial partners the City of Montréal, the Government of Québec, and the Government of Canada. Not only did we participate in Montréal International’s Annual General Assembly at the end of April, but we were honored to launch the Sustainability Expansion Plan at the ACI World Cocktail Reception on 4 May 2023, at the iconic Place Ville Marie, in Montréal, Canada.
The plan sees continued investment in the city of Montréal, as the World Capital of Civil Aviation, and in the sustainability of airports as essential enablers of economic growth and prosperity. Specifically, the plan strengthens ACI World’s sustainability initiatives that support our member airport membership in all disciplines of airport management. The plan also contributes to ACI World and its member airports’ commitment to reaching the aviation industry’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, supporting the sustainable growth of the sector. On behalf of ACI World, I thank Montréal International, its financial partners, and CEO Stéphane Paquet and his team who have been pivotal in this project. Together, through the investment in airports’ sustainability, we are accomplishing great things for the social and economic well-being of millions of people worldwide.
In addition to numerous events, the past two months has seen some of our largest announcements including the yearly ASQ Awards—in partnership with travel technology company Amadeus—recognizing the best airports for customer experience worldwide, as selected by passengers. It is a non-negotiable that airports must continue to listen closely to the voice of customers so we can continue to serve people and communities in a sustainable and resilient way.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the ASQ program, it is the world’s leading airport customer experience measurement and benchmarking program. Compared to other programs in the aviation industry, it is based on live research via surveys gathered at the airport—direct from the traveller—rating their satisfaction on the day of travel.
This year, from over 465,000 surveys collected in 2022, 144 awards have been won by 75 airports around the world. The awards categories include the perennial Best Airports by Size (passengers per year) and Region, as well as new categories introduced this year to reflect the evolution of passenger needs: Airport with the Most Dedicated Staff, Easiest Airport Journey, Most Enjoyable Airport, and Cleanest Airport.
What’s more, ACI World also revealed the latest inductees into our Director General’s Roll of Excellence. This honour is conferred to five airports that have won multiple awards over a five-year period in the last 10 years as part of the ASQ program. On behalf of ACI World and travellers around the world, I congratulate: I Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport (Bali, Indonesia); Helsinki Airport (Helsinki, Finland); Guanacaste Airport (Liberia, Costa Rica); Tallinn Airport (Tallinn, Estonia); Quito International Airport (Quito, Ecuador).
Most recently, we launched the #Back2Facts on the Airport Business campaign, which focuses on airport charges. As a key advocacy area for our airport members worldwide, the campaign aims to explain the positive socio-economic impacts of airports and aviation and the need for governments to support the airport business in their recovery from the pandemic and in their journey to sustainable growth. It explains that aeronautical charges are vital revenue streams for airports and that global airport charges policies need to evolve in favour of passengers who are at the centre of the aviation ecosystem.
And finally, in one of our most anticipated global announcements of the year, ACI World published the top 10 busiest airports worldwide for 2022. The preliminary results welcome back some of the world’s largest airport hubs as international traffic returns, marking an important milestone in air travel’s full recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
The new top 10 busiest airports for passenger traffic reflects the resilience of the airport and aviation industry, and the eagerness of passengers to travel by air. While US airport hubs were able to recover quicker due to their strong domestic market, we are now witnessing global hubs joining upper ranks—including Dubai, Istanbul, and London Heathrow airport. In addition, the re-opening of China, the second largest aviation market after the US, is now expected to bring an overall gain, both domestically and for international travel.
What’s clear is that the ongoing recovery of air travel demand would not be possible without the continuous work of airports to provide a safe, secure, efficient, and sustainable air transport ecosystem for the passengers that we depend on and the communities we serve. I can attest that ACI World will remain committed to representing the best interests of airports on the global stage during key phases of policy development and to promoting airport excellence. I look forward to reporting on the ongoing work of ACI World shortly after our Annual General Assembly, Conference, and Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain at the end of June.