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Planes, trains and pet hotels

Joe Bates looks back at the first 20 years of Airport World and picks out some personal highlights in terms of key dates for ACI and unique or unsual stories.

We might not have covered snakes on a plane, but we have written about airports as film sets and a whole host of animals both in print and online during the first 20 years of Airport World!

These have ranged from stories about Chicago O’Hare introducing herds of goats, sheep and llamas to graze on grass and weeds in hard-to-mow parts of the airport to the airfield safety dangers posed by feral cats.

We’ve also written about the birds and the bees in terms of avian radar, the use of falcons and new technology to keep our feathered friends away from airfields and how some airports make money by selling honey harvested from their own bee colonies.

Incredibly, as we revealed in December 2006, some security companies were even experimenting with the use of honeybees to detect the chemicals used in explosives.

And when it comes to man’s best friend we have virtually written an A to Z of stories covering everything from sniffer dogs, petting pups and the opening of animal bathroom and play areas to hotels for pampered pooches.

Indeed, the ‘Animal magic’ feature in our August/September 2009 issue reported on one such establishment, Sydney Airport’s ‘Park, Bark and Purr’ pet boarding hotel where ‘guests’ literally enjoyed air-conditioned suites, stunning countryside views and music channels that “catered to all tastes”.

It is not a one-off, however, as in the last couple of years Frankfurt Airport has opened its own dog hotel with 3,500 square metres of space where canines can “run, play, and romp”, a new ‘Bark & Zoom’ facility is currently under construction at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in the US and Paradise 4 Paws recently opened its fourth airport pet resort for cats and dogs at Denver International Airport.

Describing the facility at Denver International Airport, Paradise 4 Paws – which also has pet resorts at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports – points out that select dog suites have flat screen TVs with canine friendly programming!



Tales of the unexpected

Animals have, of course, not been alone in creating tales of the unexpected as during our first 20  years we sought to bring you some funny or light hearted features as well as covering the big issues of the day and meaty topics such as infrastructure development, finance, security, safety, the environment, customer service, facilitation and the adoption of new technology.

One of my favourite articles is the feature we ran about the birth of the airport hotel. The phenomenon, we believe, dating back to the 1928 opening of the Aerodrome Hotel at London’s Croydon Airport.

Silent screen legend Charlie Chaplin was one of the first guests at the hotel, which remarkably still exists today even if the airport is long gone having been replaced by Heathrow as London’s main gateway shortly after WW2.

Another story with a difference we covered back in 2007 was ‘Hammer time’, a feature about DFW’s decision to hold online auctions to sell off items it no longer needed.

Items going under the hammer included everything from computer cords to tractors, forklift trucks and portable office buildings and, at the time, one auction had raised close to $2 million.

A series of inter-modal articles – ‘Waterworld’, ‘Coach class’ and ‘Easy travel’ – proved popular with our readers as did the 2008 features ‘Anyone for golf?’, which looked at the trend of opening airport golf courses, and ‘Land of the giants’ about the safety challenges posed by the new A380.

An autumn 2009 feature called ‘What’s yours called?’ introduced us to airport mascots for the first time and a host of interesting characters such as Copenhagen’s ‘Max’, ‘Kutan’ at Tokyo Narita and Nashville’s scarf and goggles attired mascot, Commander Berry Field.

We’ve also showcased the cultural aspect of airports through articles such as ‘The sound of music’ and ‘Art attack’ and almost gone into the realms of science fiction with a series of features about the creation of spaceports for space tourism.

Each of our themed issues on ‘Brands’; ‘Marketing & Communication’; ‘IT Innovation’; and ‘Design & Build’ always produce a series of thought provoking articles. While our first ever ‘Brands’ themed issue in February/March 2009 led to what I think is our cleverest front cover to date, simply the word ‘Brands’ spelt out using the distinctive letters from some of the world’s top brands.

In recent years more mainstream articles about the commercial development of airport land for non-aero related activities has gained traction with the spotlight firmly on shopping precincts, business and retail parks, hotels and office complexes. 

We have also written about what’s under the ground at a number of airports in terms of drilling for oil and gas at DFW and Denver and the use of geothermal energy at Paris Orly, Oslo and Zürich airports.

One issue we have found ourselves writing about with increased regularity in recent times is ‘Leadership and change mangement’, and with a host of veteran airport bosses due to retire in the next couple of years, the search for the airport leaders of tomorrow is only going to intesify.

Speaking at the joint ACI-NA/ACI World Annual General Assembly, Conference & Exhibition in Calgary in 2012, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s president and CEO, Thella Bowens, told delegates that “futuring” in terms of developing the airport’s management team of tomorrow was very much part of her plans as 30% of her workforce and 50% of her leadership team were due to retire by the end of 2015.

Bowens said: “Anybody that knows me knows that I consider the workforce to be the most important part of the airport. What worries me at night is have we got the right building blocks in place to replace the current leadership team when we’re gone?

“Do we have a flexible succession plan in place that works for the organisation in the long-term?”

In terms of popularity, I’m pleased to report that the biennial ‘A-Z of global airport operators’ feature – where we provide a comprehensive list of all the companies that own and/or operate global airport systems and interview them about their development plans – is our most eagerly awaited regular feature. My happiness, you understand, is based purely on the fact it takes me around three months to research and write it!



ACI’s growing industry role

We have, of course, reported on every single big ACI World announcement over the years and debatably its first big breakthrough as an organisation happened way back in November 1997 when ICAO voted to expand its safety oversight programme to include both airports and air traffic service providers.

It was siginificant because it meant that ACI at last had the opportunity to influence future ICAO standards and at April 1998’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), it was successful in getting ‘noise’ placed back on the agenda after being dropped in 1995.

Also that year ACI for the first time voiced its opinions at a special assembly on the future of civil air navigation and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) and through ‘working papers’ submitted at ICAO’s Assembly.

“ACI can be proud to be included in such a significant forum and more importantly confident that its voice is heard as new standards for civil aviation are adopted,” we reported ACI World’s then secretary general, Jonathan Howe, as commenting at the time.

It is fair to say that ACI’s relationship with ICAO has gone from stength to strength ever since and was further enhanced with the launch of the Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme (AMPAP) in 2007. 

We celebrated the milestone by breaking with tradition and having ICAO’s then secretary general, Dr Taïeb Chérif, on the cover of the April/May issue.

As you would expect from ACI’s only global publication, we conducted the first interview with current ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, when she moved into the hot seat in the spring of 2008.

In the article, which we called ‘First lady’ in recognition of the fact that she was the first female to lead the organisation, she said that the role was in many ways the pinnacle of her career and pledged to do her best to “make an impression”.

Gittens also noted that diplomacy would very much be the order of the day in her new role, noting that the director general of ACI World had to be a facilitator and a researcher but chiefly a communicator.

“This includes facilitating communication among and with ACI’s regional directors and chairs, who I see as my core constituents and the people I really work for as they are the voice of their regions,” she told Airport World.

Adding: “It is the job of ACI World to leverage the strengths of each region to ensure that the organisation and the world’s airports have a strong global presence.”

The fact that ACI as a global organisation is more united today than at any point in its 25 year history and its presence on the global stage and relationship wth ICAO has never been as strong bears testiminy to her success.

Without doubt the 2011 move of ACI World’s HQ from Geneva to Montréal to be close to ICAO has proved pivotal to today’s close and ever growing ties with the specialised agency of the United Nations.

Other ACI milestones we have covered in depth in Airport World over the years include the launch and continued success of its Airport Carbon Accreditation and Airport Service Quality (ASQ) programmes.



New infrastructure

As you would expect over a 20 year time period, many new airports have opened and some, perhaps most famously Berlin Tempelhof, have closed since Airport World was launched.

The comparative newbies include Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (Thailand), Bengaluru–Kempegowda and Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi (India), Al Maktoum– Dubai World Cental (UAE), Hamad (Qatar), Chūbu Centrair and Kansai (Japan), Guanzhou-Baiyun, Hong Kong and Nanjing Lukou (China), Athens (Greece), Incheon (South Korea), Oslo (Norway) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).

However, inspite of the huge investment in new facilities which has included dozens of iconic new terminals across the globe, ACI is warning that the world faces a potential shortfall in capacity by 2030-2035.

Indeed, earlier this year ACI-NA announced that a phennomenal $75.7 billion or $15.1 billion per annum has to be invested on upgrading the US’s airport infrastructure alone between now and 2019 in order to keep pace with demand.

“The clear takeaway from our latest survey on airport infrastructure needs is that the US must move beyond the status quo and comprehensively modernise how we make these essential investments,” said ACI-NA president and CEO, Kevin Burke. 

“As the US economy continues to gain strength and air travel rebounds, we must guarantee to passengers and cargo shippers that we can continue to meet increases in demand with safe, secure, and efficient facilities that keep pace with our global competition.”

 The capacity crunch is, of course, nothing new as concerns about future capacity was one of the main topics covered in our first issue.

Other issues raised in that historic first edition included concerns about security and the environment.

In fact in the first ever Viewpoint (View from the top) article, ACI World’s then director general, Oris Dunham, warned that industries and governments failing to take the environment seriously ran the risk of losing their competitive edge.

“Environmental constraints may stand in the way of future airport development and limit the capability of airports to meet forecasted traffic growth,” he cautioned.

All three topics remain top priorities for the world’s airports today, of course, with the environment recently taking centre stage when ACI and other key aviation industry stakeholders called on the world’s governments to support aviation’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.

ACI also joined forces with the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) in September to launch Managing the impacts of aviation noise, a best practice guide for reducing aviation noise, especially for communities near airports. 

Gittens warned: “The aviation industry needs to address the concerns of local communities about aviation noise to maintain the support of governments and the general public and to maintain our licence to operate. 

“The industry must do more, work collaboratively, and pool its collective ingenuity and innovative capabilities, to develop solutions that address the noise challenge. This publication provides a template for action on noise.”

The guide provides key principles and recommended actions for better community interactions, including effective communication, transparency, and education. 



Traffic trends

When Airport World made its bow as the official magazine of ACI World 20 years ago, the organisation officially represented 430 airport authorities running 1,100 gateways in more than 140 countries across the globe.

Today, that figure stands at 591 member airport authorities operating 1,850 airports in 173 countries, and annual traffic figures have grown from 2.7 billion passengers and 54 millon tonnes of freight in 1995 to
6.7 billion passengers and 102 million tonnes of cargo in 2014.

As if to prove the point that hot topics never go away, the old chestnut of airlines complaining about airport charges also reared its ugly head in the first ever Airport World. 

ACI World’s then chairman and director of aviation for Houston, Paul Gaines, somewhat prophetically declaring: “I think that ACI has made the record very clear. On average, airports’ fees and charges as a percentage of the expenses of airlines have remained at a constant level over the years. I think that it is safe and correct to say that airport charges should not be considered excessive.”

Traffic statistics in the first issue also revealed that the world’s top 10 airports for passenger traffic in the 12 months ending November 1995 were Chicago O’Hare (67.2m), Atlanta (56.7m), London Heathrow (54.4m), Dallas/Fort Worth (54.2m), Los Angeles (53.9m), Tokyo-Haneda (45.8m), Frankfurt (38.1m), San Francisco (36.2m), Miami (33.2m) and Denver (31m).

The top ten has quite a different look about it today with the world’s busiest airports for passenger traffic in the 2014 calendar year being Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (96.1m), Beijing Capital (86.1m), London Heathrow (73.4m), Tokyo Haneda (72.8m), Los Angeles (70.7m), Dubai International (70.4m), Chicago O’Hare (70m), Paris CDG (63.8m), Hong Kong (63.4m) and Dallas/Fort Worth (62.9m).

On page 43 of this issue you can discover more about how traffic has developed at the world’s largest hubs over the past 20 years and get a glimpse at what the future might hold for them.



Customer service and IT innovation

Arguably the greatest changes over the last 20 years have been experienced in the areas of customer service and information technology.

Airport Monitor – the forerunner of today’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) passenger satisfaction survey – declared the UK’s Manchester Airport the best gateway on the planet in the first issue of Airport World. The honour rightly recognising its pioneering efforts to raise the bar on service standards.

Airports were only just beginning to realise the positive impact passenger satisfaction could have on traffic throughput and revenue generation, but by 2000 the penny appeared to have dropped with many gateways factoring customer service initiatives into their business strategies. 

Noting the change in mindset in the autumn of 2000 issue of Airport World when reviewing rising non-aeronautical revenues, ACI’s then director of economics, Paul Behnke, commented: “Along with a spirit of entrepreneurship, airport operators are also exhibiting a new sensitivity to the preferences of passengers. 

“Hub airports, in particular, are aware that they are competing with other airports for transit passengers and that a reputation for efficiency and a broad choice of options for shopping and entertainment can influence the passenger in the way he structures his itinerary.”

You can read more on page 22 about how airports, led by ASQ champion Incheon, have embraced a new customer service philisophy over the last ten years through increased awareness of passenger needs and the opening of some amazing new facilities that have included musuems, cinemas and even an ice rink.

Information technology articles have been a staple diet of Airport World since the very beginning when we ran a feature urging airports not to panic when buying new IT. However, few back then could have predicted that within 20 years new technology
would redefine the way we travel and the way airports and airlines operate.

SITA’s Matthys Serfontein takes a closer look at the IT transformation on page 32 and predicts what the next 20 years might hold for airports and the travelling public.


Airport economics

When it comes to communicating the economic realities of life, undoubtedly airports have much to learn from the airlines about getting their message across as while the newspapers regularly run stories about the financial woes of carriers, the money worries of airports rarely gets any column inches. 

Possibly this is because the media and subsequently the general public view airlines as being ‘sexier’ and more interesting than airports, and as a result, I believe that most people still wrongly believe that airports are making fortunes.

While this maybe the case for a handful of the world’s biggest hubs, as ACI’s latest Airport Economics Report revealed earlier this year, although overall profits are up 5.4% to $131 billion, an incredible 67% of the world’s airports operate at a loss. Speaking about this at the 2015 Airport Economics & Finance Conference in London, Gittens said: “Industry profitability is primarily driven by 20% of airports that carry the bulk of passenger and cargo traffic. Eighty per cent of airports with fewer than one million passengers lose money. Size matters.”

Clearly a lot has happened in the last 20 years and there are many more stories to be told in this ever evolving industry we call aviation. Airport World looks forward to bringing them to you over the coming decades!

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