The election of a new ACI World chairman for 2014, ACI Africa joining the Airport Carbon Accreditation scheme, discussions about evolving business models, and warnings of the challenges ahead, ensured that this year’s annual conference and exhibition was a lively affair.
Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority’s president and CEO, Fredrick Piccolo, was elected the new chairman of ACI World, succeeding Athens International Airport’s CEO, Dr Yiannis Paraschis, who completes his two-year stint in the hot seat at the end of the year.
Additionally, former ACI Europe president Declan Collier, chief executive of London City Airport, was elected vice-chair.
“We welcome two very qualified airport leaders whose industry expertise and knowledge will help further guide and steer ACI to provide its members with the tools, services and strategies to continue achieving operational excellence,” said ACI World’s director general, Angela Gittens.
Commenting on his future role, Piccolo enthused: “I will do my utmost to help ACI further grow its relationships with ICAO, IATA, CANSO, IFALPA and other stakeholder groups to ensure that it continues to be in a position to help airports further strengthen their operations and enhance the standing of airports on the world aviation stage.”
The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Dynamic, airport business transformation’, so it was no surprise that in his opening address, TAV Airports CEO, Sani Sener, reflected on the rapid development of his company and Turkey’s airport system over the past decade.
“Between 1990 and 2000, Turkey was a little bit complacent in terms of coping with the growth of the global economy, and coalition governments made it difficult to cope with the new era of economic globalisation,” he admitted.
“But after 2000, with the single party government, things changed and Turkey was very successful in the privatisation of infrastructure assets.
“TAV was established after the Istanbul [Atatürk] airport tender, and in our first year in 2000, the airport handled 10 million passengers. Last year we achieved 45 million passengers, and together with our other airports in North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus, we handled 75 million passengers.
“Last year we also sold some of our shares to Aéroports de Paris, which currently handles around 130 million passengers yearly around the world. So, together with ADP, we have established one of the biggest airport platforms in the world.
“Between us, we now operate a total of 37 airports handling200 million passengers. We will use this extra information and knowledge to develop and grow the company.”
ACI Europe director general, Olivier Jankovec, reflected on changing times for the aviation industry during the opening session of this year’s event.
He said that Europe’s airports have evolved, and now have a stronger focus on business strategy and costs, enjoy more direct engagement with passengers, provide increased quality and boast diversified revenue streams.
The developments, claimed Jankovec, have helped reinforce the status of airports as fully-fledged and competitive businesses, focused on their customers and supporting the economies of their communities.
However, despite 2012 seeing a significant weakening in the recovery of air traffic that followed the 2008/2009 global financial crisis, Jankovec admitted that being profitable remained a key issue for the continent’s gateways.
“Europe is not just about a two-speed aviation market between EU and non-EU countries. There is also a big divide between the larger hubs and the smaller regional airports,” he said.
“The hubs are showing a lot of resilience due to their reliance on intercontinental traffic. Meanwhile, small regional airports are almost exclusively dependent on intra-European demand and they have been the hardest hit by airlines’ capacity and route cutting. Overall, 48% of Europe’s airports are losing traffic.”
With the pace of growth slowing down in the global economy, record unemployment increasingly being recognised as the new Eurozone crisis, and no tangible prospects for real improvement in the economy this year, demand for air transport in Europe is likely to be stagnant at best, he warned.
Outgoing ACI Europe president, Declan Collier, shocked some of the 825 delegates from 65 countries in the audience with the announcement that an airport capacity crunch in Europe could cost the European economy €230 billion.
He said that despite recessionary pressures and the weak economic prospects affecting most of Europe, there was little appetite to capitalise on the strategic role aviation can play for growth and jobs.
“Short-termism, micro-politics, regulatory burden, red tape, bilateralism and the urge to refill the state coffers are the forces that continue to pay havoc with the European aviation sector.
“Few European countries have a thoroughly thought-through and fully formulated aviation policy. Long-term challenges are being ignored at our peril.”
He noted that the recently completed Challenges of Growth 2013 report from EUROCONTROL shows that despite slower traffic growth prospects in the next 20 years, Europe continues to face a severe airport capacity crunch.
Revenue pressures, capital costs, a lack of political support, poor planning processes and decreasing confidence are all “colluding to constrain airport development” in Europe, said Collier.
He added: “This report is a warning bell for European aviation. It means that more than ever, Europe’s airports need to be given their licence to plan, finance and deliver new facilities – all within reasonable time frames.”
He called for a European Action Plan on airport capacity that would seriously address the airport capacity crunch.
On a brighter note, ACI Africa became the latest region to join the ACI Europe launched Airport Carbon Accreditationprogramme (please see page 97 for more details).
ACI World Assembly
Speaking at the ACI World Assembly, Gittens said: “A major feature of the dynamic airport business transformation is the increased focus on setting targets and measuring performance.
“The business has become competitive and transparent, so we now need to continuously know how we are doing, compared to targets, compared to best practice, compared to others and compared to customer expectation or demand.
“Our airport service quality (ASQ) has, of course, been our standout programme in performance measurement and benchmarking. We added an enhanced retail component to the programme last year, and will add performance on accommodating passengers with reduced mobility, and more data analysis.
“All of our standing committees are engaged in developing performance measurements, developing key performance indicators in all of the major disciplines in which we work. The IT committee will have ready this year a benchmarking programme for the security of IT systems at our airports, an increasing concern given the dependence of our business and that of our tenants on the airport’s information technology functions.
“The safety and technical committee is developing key performance indicators for aerodrome safety, which will enable benchmarking, reporting and performance improvement acrossthe sector. The facilitation committee has developed a guidelinefor airport service levels which we will either have incorporatedin the airport design manual or issue as a stand-alone recommended practice.
“The economics committee will refine its previously published guidance for financial and efficiency performance indicators. We all know how difficult it is to compare airports but we also know that we can only manage what we can measure.”
Key resolutions passed at the ACI World Assembly included urging ICAO, states and other stakeholders to work together to support and promote the use of airport collaborative decision making (A-CDM).
Others included calling on airports to support the development of next generation security; a plea for states and other stakeholders to work collaboratively through ICAO to reach agreement on measures to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment; and, establishing a vision to ensure that passengers’ needs are addressed both when the system operates well and duringperiods of disruption.
ACI also passed a resolution calling on ICAO and states toensure that airports are consulted by air navigation service providers and aircraft operators before implementing new performance based management routes, so as to avoid adverse noise impact on those communities.
An eventful second day ended with a Gala Dinner, held in the spectacular Ciragan Palace Kempinski on the banks of the Bosphorus, which included an awards ceremony for this year’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) winners.
Four new airports were inducted into the Director General’s Roll of Excellence – Cancún, Juan Santamaria, Malta and Shanghai Pudong. The honour recognises airports that have ranked among the top five in ASQ for five years.
For the first time, the ACI World gathering was precededby a pre-conference conference – in this case it was a Safety Symposium where delegates got to learn a little more aboutACI’s Airport Excellence (APEX) in Safety Programme and otherkey safety issues.
“Safety is the top priority for our industry,” said Gittens. “It is vital that airports identify and address their safety vulnerabilities.”
Istanbul will be a hard act to follow, but with next year’s ACI World Assembly, Conference & Exhibition being in the dynamic city of Seoul, South Korea – in conjunction with ACI Asia-Pacific – you know we are in for something special!