Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on the susceptibility of aviation to outside events and the ‘economics and finance’ theme of this issue.
Welcome to the new decade
The new decade has certainly got off to an eventful start with political events in Europe (Brexit) and the US (the impeachment victory of Donald Trump), Australia’s devastating bush fires and now the Coronavirus dominating the global headlines.
The latter, of course, recently forced ACI to postpone March’s planned Airport Economics & Finance Conference and Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur until later in the year.
While the delay is disappointing, it was no doubt necessary because of the potential health threat to delegates, and to me anyway, to quote the lyrics from a 1990s Shirley Bassey hit, it feels like ‘just little bits of history repeating’ after the 2002 cancellation of ACI Pacific’s Annual Conference in San Francisco (SARS) and joint ACI Africa/ACI World Annual General Assembly in Egypt in 2011 (Arab Spring).
I also remember having my temperature taken to see if I had Avian Influenza (bird flu) shortly after getting off the plane in Kuala Lumpur for the joint ACI Asia-Pacific/ACI World Assembly in 2009, but luckily that event went ahead as scheduled.
Events such as pandemics inevitably have a negative impact on traffic figures across the planet, but history tells us that aviation’s resiliency to events beyond its control means that it will be only a matter of time before things change and passenger numbers pick up again.
Indeed, I’m sure that aviation’s ability to bounce back from adversity is a major reason behind the enduring appeal of airports to global investors, with almost every potential transaction attracting a host of interested parties ranging from traditional airport operators to investment banks, construction companies and pension funds.
This, despite the fact that ACI World regularly reminds us that the majority of the world’s airports don’t earn enough revenue from aviation activity to cover their operational costs.
Today’s airport investors are, thankfully, much more switched on than some of the “get rich quick” type investors of the past, recognising that in order to succeed in such a highly competitive business they will need both short and long-term strategies and shareholders that are committed to improving the operational efficiency, capacity and non-commercial revenues of their airports.
You can find out all about the world’s biggest and most prolific airport investors in our comprehensive ‘A-Z of global airport operators’ feature in the ‘economics and finance’ themed section of this issue.
The section also includes an airport city/ aerotropolis update from Dr John Kasarda; our annual ‘Buying game’ feature on the airport transactions of 2019 and possible deals of 2020; and articles about ‘the economics of route development’ and an airport city vision for Newark Liberty International Airport.
Elsewhere in the issue, you can discover more about San Antonio’s customer service success story; the threat of rising water levels to airports; and consider how IT will help airports improve their operational efficiency and the passenger experience.
We also round up the latest retail/F&B news from across the globe; hear from ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, who provides her thoughts on some of the economic challenges and opportunities facing airports; cover human resources in our regular ‘People matters’ column; and discover the latest industry news on our World Business Partner pages.
Finally, I would like to say a very warm welcome to the new director general of ACI Asia-Pacific, Stefano Baronci, and new regional director of ACI Latin America- Caribbean, Rafael Echevarne, who need no introduction to the ACI family having both previously served as the economics director of ACI World in Montréal.