The concept of Airports Council International as a global federation is fundamental to its success.
As airports are rooted to the ground, local, national and in some cases, continental rules apply, so the ‘regional focus’ of each ACI is very important. However, the case for a global presence was clearly made over 20 years ago and so ACI World was constructed as that presence.
Nevertheless, for some time the various siblings of the ACI family were not always operating harmoniously. There was a disconnect that was hurting the federation’s ability to really advance.
Resolving this disconnect became the key challenge and as the global co-ordinator, the starting point was ACI World. The resulting realignment of ACI World with the Regions, initiated by director deneral, Angela Gittens, has successfully engaged everyone in collectively building a stronger ACI. One that truly leverages on regional strengths and provides more value to members.
This realignment has not been easy, not least due to the diversity of interests, structures, functioning and roles between the regions.
In this regard, Angela has steered this process with vision, and a genuine two-way dynamic is now in place. We feel supported by ACI World and consequently, we are in turn comfortable and supportive of ACI World’s work.
Fittingly, ACI World has refocused on the global perspective. Its move to Montréal and conclusion of a formal partnership with ICAO is a vital part of working effectively on the organisation’s airport related agenda/policies.
ICAO remains the centre-point for aviation regulation at a global level. Having representation on their doorstep is a must, and we here in Europe are delighted by the increasing visibility ACI now enjoys at ICAO. We need our voice to be heard, on many policy fronts.
ICAO can sometimes seem quite remote from the daily business of airport operators – not least because it can be slow in producing tangible results from its work. While some regions or countries, like the EU or the US, develop their own advanced aviation policies, ICAO standards and regulation remain the baseline and starting point.
In this regard, ACI Europe and the other ACI Regions have also stepped up their co-ordination on ICAO issues with ACI World. I think that there has been a tangible improvement in the way the ACI Regions (ourselves included) now communicate aligned messages to national governments, supporting what ACI World is doing in Montréal.
So it is working both ways now – ACI World supports the regions and ACI Regions support ACI World – again for the benefit of our industry. This applies not only as regards advocacy/ICAO, but also as regards industry programmes and initiatives.
ACI Europe supports ACI World in the development of many of its activities, such as the recently launched Airport Excellence in Safety (APEX), while ACI World supports ACI Europe and the other ACI Regions on activities such as the World Business Partner programme.
This kind of reinforced co-operation and alignment goes a long way in raising the profile of ACI collectively and – crucially – of the airport industry.
The importance of good data
In today’s world of keen business analysis and data mining, in which Europe’s airports are competing tooth-and-nail for traffic, key figures are king.
In this regard, the world traffic statistics gathering by ACI World is very important work, putting key figures on trends and allowing analysts and media to note the gaps and similarities in what occurs in airport traffic terms, across the world’s regions.
This is critical to our profile as the airport industry – an industry, which has played second fiddle to the airlines for far too long, in terms of visibility. Today’s world is small. Airport companies such as Aena Aeropuertos, Fraport, Zurich and Aéroports de Paris have interests in multiple territories. The aviation business is more joined up than ever before.
Going forward, we at ACI Europe would love to see ACI World produce even more business-relevant data. This would provide even more value to members, for their own performance analysis, as well as allowing us to reinforce the message that airports are now businesses in their own right.
The increasing success of ASQ
Similarly, the ASQ programme has become a great indicator of the business transformation that has occurred in the airport industry over the past 20 years. More than that, the diversity of the traffic groupings of airports participating in ASQ shows that competition and prioritising the passenger are not restricted to the big hubs.
Airports of all sizes and geographical placement are looking to up their game and ASQ has been designed to help them do that.
In parallel, ACI’s Global Training has made huge strides in the past couple of years, and we have been delighted to support that activity in Europe, assisting ACI World is selecting partner airports to act at Global Training centres and promoting the courses.
Global Training is growing in its importance, and recent feedback from members tells us that there is a lot of demand for courses in the full spectrum of airport activities, from master planning to route development, from the airport operations to political concerns and beyond. All part of ACI’s goal to be the knowledge source for the airport industry.
Building from one region to another
In Europe, we have a primary regulator with whom we work – the EU institutions and their associated agencies, along with ECAC and others.
This is not necessarily the case in some other ACI Regions, and the centralised nature of our policymakers means that the political priorities are usually quite clear and indeed, very ambitious.
This has led us at ACI Europe to adopt a more strategic and comprehensive approach in the way we represent and defend the interests of our members. This comes with an increased workload – over 280 stakeholder meetings each year.
However, this has also led us to develop some interesting projects, which in turn become useful to other ACI Regions. The most immediate example is the carbon management certification standard, Airport Carbon Accreditation. We developed it and launched it in Europe in 2009, at a time when the global economy was in meltdown. Less than three years on, we were able to partner with ACI Asia-Pacific to extend it to more airports and open the door towards it becoming a global programme.
In this instance, ACI World was able to play a role in underlining the significance of the programme to ICAO and appealing for its support.
However, more broadly, the family ties that bind the various organisations that make up ACI are an advantage, in what has become a thoroughly globalised business world.
The chance to exchange ideas and best practises with colleagues in North America, for instance, is immediately beneficial given just how important transatlantic air traffic and political relations remain in today’s world. The parallels between ambitious projects such as the Single European Sky and NextGen clearly require regular debate and exchange as well.
Similarly, the possibility to find new opportunities to work together with regions with promising prospects for traffic growth, such as Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin-America is always illuminating. External relations has been a regular point of collaboration with them.
Given the European Commission’s recent announcement of new strategic policy plan for liberalisation negotiations with countries in many of the regions, it looks like our joint-efforts will only intensify in the next while.
The federal structure of ACI is particularly appropriate to the multi-speed nature of the economies involved. Aviation markets here in Europe and North America are already mature and the faster growing markets in Asia and Latin America are learning from the lessons of the past and innovating at an impressive pace.
Similarly, the efficiencies offered by Airport-Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) have allowed the programme to gain momentum outside of Europe very quickly.
A-CDM has the power to really change the way the aviation system operates by improving the live communication and timely exchange of data between airports, airlines and air traffic management. Our colleagues at ACI Asia-Pacific are very interested in this and ACI World has just recently signed an agreement with CANSO – building upon our own A-CDM action plan initiated with EUROCONTROL and later supported by CANSO – launched four years ago.
The federalised nature of ACI really allows new ideas to be investigated and developed, with the safety net of cultural, political or private sector interest particular to the ACI region. Nothing succeeds like success. Once a concept flourishes in one region, airports in other regions are inspired and at an appropriate moment, it can be scaled across to another ACI region or scaled up to the global airport community, through ACI World.
As we know all too well, in the 21st century, aviation is now a business with a capital B. Airports, the ambassadors on the ground, are no exception to that. Across the ACI ‘family’ the various agendas and challenges, which are specific to each region mean that there is always plenty of work to be done.
Finding the commonalities, identifying the trends and connecting priorities have become an essential, continuous process. It’s all part of the goal of adding value to our member airports and business partners.
We are getting better at it and we will keep on striving.