I’m at the ACI Europe annual meeting in Paris and there is a lot of talk about airlines and airports. Indeed, European airline and airport leaders met today to discuss a number of issues including fuel costs, environment and capacity on the ground and in the air.
It is clear that airlines are facing tough times, though as I’ve written before, it is not all unprecedented. What is not always well enough appreciated, though, is the extent to which airports work with their airline partners at each individual airport. No airport wants to lose service. Airports want a strong airline industry. And they have proven it over and over again.
They work together to trim budgets during tough times. Airports take on tasks previously handled by airlines. Perhaps, the best example is the literal care and feeding of passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled. This was previously an airline responsibility. Over time it has become an airport one.
Airports have been in the forefront of the fight for air traffic control modernization for two decades. For a long time, we were virtually a lone voice. Airlines got engaged in the issue only at the end of the last decade, the last time we had a delay and congestion crisis. But it has always been true that there is nothing the U.S. government can do to better help the airlines and the whole industry than modernize and reform the industry’s assembly line — air traffic control.
What goes up must come down, right? That is why airports work diligently to find efficient ways to put runways, taxiways, gates and other capacity enhancing facilities into place. Airports try to finance these improvements in ways that keep airline costs low and benefits high. And you might be surprised to know that these projects use very few tax dollars.
Airports are run as businesses. I was in the private sector before taking this job and I’ve met very few folks who are better business people than airport directors.
Airlines face some tough challenges today as do the communities that rely on their service. Airports will step up to help. But we will also work to enhance capacity because if we don’t, we’ll never be able to move ahead.