I’m writing this from Maine, where I’ve gone to stay at the home of a friend after our week-long, worldwide, annual meeting. Maine is one of five states I’d never visited, so that list is down by 20%. And, before we drove up here, we visited the graves of John and John Quincy Adams, making good progress on another of the life goals. The Adams grave sites make a stark impression. Especially when you consider that they are filled with two presidents, two of our great first ladies, the chair of the committee that produced the Declaration of Independence and the man (as Monroe’s Secretary of State) who produced the Monroe Doctrine (many historians consider JQA the greatest Secretary of State ever).
I’d also recommend highly the southern coast of Maine. Lots of beautiful scenery, friendly people and great food.
The time spent here has provided an opportunity for some final reflections on our Boston meeting.
We had over 2,300 attendees. While the vast majority of them were from North America, especially the United States, 49 total countries were represented.
A joint board meeting early in the week between the ACI-North America board and the ACI Europe board produced two hours of very high level discussion. This included a joint statement issued on the importance of achieving open skies agreements between the U.S .and EU and Canada and the EU. This importance of this statement and cross-Atlantic support was highlighted last week in a speech by the chief EU negotiator before the International Aviation Club. In the speech he referred directly to the joint ACI statement. The statement also highlighted the need to harmonize security regimes across the Atlantic, especially on liquids and gels.
The following day featured a meeting of the ACI World Board. On this board sit airport leaders from all over the world. The mix of cultures and viewpoints is quite something to behold, but all share a dedication to the well being of their communities and passengers.
I have already written about our opening session with Dr. Alfred Kahn, who is not only the father of airline deregulation in the United States, but whose work it can fairly be said changed the worldwide industry and led to the widespread creation of, among other things, the low fare airline. That night, ACI World celebrated the graduation of its first class of international airport professionals. This new IAP accreditation, a joint program with ICAO, will soon become a global standard for the industry.
The following day featured a series of very substantive sessions on congestion, airport ownership, airline consolidation, environment, and airport financial performance. Panels featured speakers from all ACI global regions.
All this time, our exhibit hall, featuring nearly 300 booths, was open to attendees. Participants could see the latest in technology, concessions concepts, consulting and other services.
We were also pleased to hold two special meetings with TSA leadership, which provided a valuable opportunity for airport leaders in the U.S. to meet with these important regulators.
On Wednesday, we closed with sessions on safety and security, along with the chairman’s honors lunch. At the lunch, we gave our highest public relations award to Edmonton and our highest environmental awards to Boston, Minneapolis and Seattle. And, as already documented in an earlier post, we gave our most prestigious individual award to the late Wally Burg who not only led Tucson’s airport through a period of impressive growth, but whose leadership was widely recognized throughout the global airport industry. His wife, Sue, accepted the award on his behalf. Also making remarks in Wally’s memory were current Tucson Airport director Bonnie Allin and Oris Dunham, himself a true lion of the global industry.
Perhaps the most compelling memories are of meeting with the African airport leaders whose attendance at the conference was possible because of the generosity and vision of Ben DeCosta (Atlanta), John Clark (Jacksonville) and Jim Cherry (Montréal). The delegate from Madagascar approached me at the final night event at the JFK Library and Museum, and with his eyes glistening, thanked us for making his participation possible. He talked about the benefit of such opportunities to airport leaders from the developing world. It was truly a personal highlight of the meeting for me.
For ACI-North America, we move to another great American city, Austin, Texas for our 2009 meeting. We will next meet together with ACI World in Calgary in 2012.