In June I celebrated my second anniversary at ACI World as Director General—and as many professionals who begun a new position during the pandemic have mentioned—they were the most challenging years of my career. While the virtual world has its advantages, it does not provide the sense of community that aviation stakeholders need to accelerate innovation, solutions, and collaboration. I am happy to report on the resumption of in-person activities, and the interactions that support the activities of our members, and ACI programs and services.
During the month of June and July I had the pleasure of attending some key industry conferences and events. I travelled to Doha to attend the IATA AGM which brought together many industry friends and colleagues to discuss hot topics such as recovery from COVID-19, setting the path for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, working to improve diversity, and adapting to a turbulent geopolitical environment. Although our day-to-day working relationship with IATA remains very good, closer collaboration will be needed as we continue on the road to full recovery. Messages from IATA’s top management to the press regarding airport charges do not reflect the efforts of the entire ecosystem in recovering from the industry’s worst crisis (see section Back to facts on airport charges).
I was thrilled to attend the ACI EUROPE Annual Congress & General Assembly in Rome and meet in-person with colleagues and friends from the region. Congratulations to Olivier and his team for organizing an amazing event, with very interesting topics and the election of new regional board members. Congratulations as well to Javier Marin for his re-appointment as President of the ACI EUROPE Board. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Jost Lammers, Kadri Samsunlu, and Arnaud Feist to the ACI World Governing Board. In addition, I am pleased that Nazareno Ventola has been re-elected for a second mandate. We value their support as we offer leadership and vision to our members in meeting the challenges of our dynamic industry.
From Rome I travelled to Istanbul, Turkey for the ICAO Global Implementation Support Symposium. The inaugural event provided a global platform for the aviation sector to connect and collectively respond to current challenges and forge solutions. I participated in a panel “Runway to Aviation Recovery” and emphasized ACI’s excellent working relationship with ICAO and our collaboration in a multitude of areas such as technical cooperation and assistance, capacity building projects and programs, and training, among others. It is clear that the member States of ICAO see industry as an important partner and there is an appetite for engagement that goes beyond what has been seen previously. There is much common ground on recovery and resilience of the aviation industry, and we look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship to promote airport-friendly policies at the highest levels of government.
Unfortunately, statements made by IATA at the AGM regarding airport charges do not reflect current market and economic realities as airports, airlines, ground handlers and other stakeholders work together to rebuild the sector. At a time when the air transport industry has never been more united, it remains of utmost importance that fellow aviation organizations continue on this path of collaboration and cooperation.
From a policy perspective, and beyond the rhetoric, regulators must consider what is ultimately best for the consumer. It is important to emphasize that airports invest in not only infrastructure that generates socio-economic benefits but also the passenger experience. What’s more, significant investment will be needed to transition to sustainable energy sources.
Overall, it is time to modernize the economic oversight of airport charges to something that is more reflective of market conditions allowing for risk to be shared across airlines and airports. We have outlined this clearly in our Policy Brief on the matter.
Fundamentally, global regulatory frameworks need to be fair for the entire ecosystem so we can collectively thrive and rebuild a sustainable future to best serve our end user—the passenger.
While travel continues to pick up as seen in our latest Advisory Bulletin on the impact of COVID-19 on airports and the path to recovery, it has come with some growing pains felt by aviation stakeholders including the travelling public—namely disrupted operations resulting in delayed processing times and a degraded passenger experience. The disruptions are caused by several factors, but most notably a sudden surge in demand paired with staffing shortages and lingering COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Reflective of ACI’s growing authority as aviation leaders, CNN’s flagship international business program Quest Means Business requested a live interview on the subject. I was pleased to share the airport perspective and to place the issue in context. As an ecosystem, it is clear that if one part of the process experiences issues, it causes a domino affect on the whole operation—and more than ever all stakeholders need to work together to minimize the impacts on the passengers.
The fact of the matter is that staffing shortages are an issue felt by many service industries post-COVID-19. That being said, it is one felt acutely by aviation and by all its interconnected stakeholders. To solve the issue, all players must work together and collaborate better. This includes working with airlines to optimize available resources both at the airports and on aircraft. It also means expediting government support to follow the data and lift COVID-19 travel restrictions, accelerating backgrounds checks for airport staff, and improving security and border control via the re-introduction of technology such as self-service and automated processes.
There is a lot happening behind the scenes and airports and ACI are supporting the ecosystem on this issue. Airports have been committed to better manage resources, organize passenger processes, increase stakeholder engagement, and accelerate the use of technologies. ACI for its part has been representing its members in advocacy, and supporting them through the development of guidance, data, and training, including a recent Advisory Bulletin on safety and security monitoring in the context of aviation worker shortages.
As an industry, we need to ensure aviation remains attractive to the current and next generation to be able to recruit, retain, and invest in skilled talent. ACI has been working hard on this front, both in its preparation for advocacy at the upcoming 41st ICAO Assembly, and on the development of resources such as the upcoming White Paper to be released at our annual conference this fall.
Indeed, workforce challenges are one of the key topics that will be discussed at the ACI Africa / World Annual General Assembly, Conference, and Exhibition (WAGA) held in Marrakesh, Morocco from 22 to 26 October 2022. Other pressing topics will include: the net zero carbon goal, airport customer experience, economic sustainability, the importance of non-aeronautical review, and technology among others. The theme of this year’s conference, “Sky’s the limit: Discovering opportunities in change,” recognizes that the aviation community now has an opportune moment to both imagine and actively build a better and more sustainable industry for current and future generations that reap aviation’s social and economic benefits.
Prior to this event, ACI will welcome customer experience professionals in Krakow, Poland from 13 to 15 September 2022 for the ACI Customer Experience Global Summit under the theme “Re-Humanizing the airport experience.” It is a unique opportunity to learn from industry leaders and CEOs about their vision and airport experience strategy. The event attracts more than 500 senior airport executives, civil aviation authority representatives, airport specialists, and related business executives. In addition, you’ll be able to join the winners of the prestigious Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards recognizing airport excellence in customer experience worldwide based on data from ACI World’s renowned ASQ program. ACI World delivers the ASQ Awards in partnership with Amadeus.
Last, but certainly not least, this week ACI participated at ICAO’s High-level Meeting on the Feasibility of a Long-term Aspirational Goal for International Aviation CO2 Emissions Reductions—attended by Ministers and high-level officials from States as well as the President of the ICAO Council, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, Secretary General of ICAO, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, Distinguished Council Members, Delegates, and colleagues of the industry.
It was a great pleasure to share the airport perspective in this historic moment for the aviation industry in which its future is being defined. The cost of failure in reaching the net zero goal is immense for our industry. The transition to net zero will require reciprocal, flexible, and smart policies that can release the necessary funding for long-term commitments, such as investment in infrastructure development and significant amounts of renewable energy.
ACI, on behalf of our member airports, were there to communicate the leadership of airports in this regard and ask for regulatory support in our decarbonization efforts. What the world and aviation need are policy certainty with robust frameworks that can facilitate access to green finance, de-risk investment in sustainable energy, and enable its integration into operational and infrastructure requirements.
The ICAO long-term aspirational goal report provides a robust framework around which the success of the industry can be built and enables all parts of the industry to move together in a timely manner. But now, the agreement on an ambitious LTAG for international civil aviation at the upcoming ICAO Assembly is essential to grant the demand certainty, the consistent international policy framework, and the private sector investment in sustainable energy sources that we need.