Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on the sustainability challenges facing the world’s gateways and the importance of communicating aviation’s good environmental record.
In increasingly uncertain times due to ongoing geopolitical events across the world, one thing that airports can be sure of is that sustainability will be key to determining their long-term futures.
With global passenger numbers set to double by 2030 and the race already on to ensure that there is enough airport capacity to meet future demand, arguably, being seen to be ‘green’ has never been more important than today.
Hundreds of new airports will be needed across the globe by then – China alone has announced plans to build 136 new gateways by 2025 and India plans to double its airport capacity by 2019 – while existing airports, where possible, will have to be upgraded and expanded.
Yet in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, despite being key economic generators it already feels like airports have to justify their very existence on an almost daily basis because of aviation’s perceived adverse impact on the environment.
In response, airports are increasingly having to show that they can operate, develop and grow in a sustainable way.
This, of course, means building more environmentally friendly infrastructure, improving operational efficiencies and adopting best practice for a variety of processes and procedures.
In my opinion, sustainabilty covers everything from ‘green’ design and the need to build strong relationships with local communities to the quest to reduce emissions, mitigate noise and introduce renewable energy solutions.
All are important, but perhaps the most underestimated of these is the need for airports to communicate and actively engage with local communities, because winning the hearts and minds of people will, ultimately, decide their futures and licence to grow.
This dialogue/interaction must be constant and consistent to ensure the continued backing of supporters and possibly win over others who don’t have such a favourable opinion of the airport.
And airports must use every means at their disposal to get messages across. Long gone are the days when an airport could largely ignore public opinion about their development projects save for the occasional letter drop or meeting at the town hall.
In today’s world, backing has to be earned, and what better place to spread the word, and positive messages about a capital development plan or an environmental initiative, than on websites or through social media?
In fairness, most airports do now use social media, and some are even quite expert at it, but more clearly needs to be done to get the environmental message across, because in spite of everything airports have done and continue to do to reduce their impact on the
environment, aviation is still viewed negatively in the eyes of many.
We endeavour to set the record straight in this ‘sustainability’ themed issue, which includes a feature from the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) outlining why airports are perfectly placed to become sustainability leaders and role models for the communities they serve.
We also hear from ACI World’s Juliana Scavuzzi who reports on the pioneering energy conservation efforts of airports, while ACI Europe’s Marina Bylinsky provides an update on ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.
There are also themed articles on Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport’s plans to be a good neighbour; Galapagos Ecological Airport; and the importance of planning for sustainability.
Elsewhere in this issue we provide a comprehensive report on the recent Airport Economics & Finance Conference and Exhibition and look at vehicle security and airport uniforms. LAX is the airport in the spotlight.
I hope you find it a good read!