I’m writing this from Boston, Massachusetts where ACI-North America is holding its annual conference and exhibition. This year, we are very proud to be holding our meeting along with ACI World. We have well over 2,000 attendees from 49 countries and every continent (ok, no penguins, so Antarctica is not represented). We also have nearly 300 exhibit booths at which companies and organizations from around the world are displaying the latest technologies, concessions concepts, design ideas and other goods and services.
I like to say that the exhibit hall at our regular annual meeting is like the state fair of the airport industry. For this meeting with its international flair, I suppose it is like the UN.
Fuel prices are on everyone’s mind. No matter whether we are talking about environment, finance, technology, or air service, fuel prices and the impact they have had on airline operations, are never far from the discussion. This is true no matter where in the world one lives.
The current U.S. financial crisis has also been brought up in many of our meetings and in hallway conversations. I was talking to someone who oversees the airport system in a large African country. A few months ago they entered into an insurance contract with AIG. Most Americans had no idea what AIG was a few months ago and now we all know. We also now know that its problems have a ripple effect far beyond our shores.
Over the next few days we will be examining issues such as environment, congestion, information technology, security, safety and airline consolidation and economics. Speakers come from all over the world; this might be the most high powered group of presenters I have seen.
One additional point of interest. Airports from the developing world benefit in a special way from the chance to interact with, and learn from, their international colleagues. The problem is that many cannot afford to come to a place like Boston for a meeting like this.
The airports in Montreal, Atlanta and Jacksonville stepped into the breach and through their sponsorship we were able to bring five airport leaders from Africa to Boston who might not other wise have been able to come. A global industry at its best.
Over the next few days I will continue to write about the goings on in Boston. I even have time for a trip to Fenway Park! And at the end of the meeting I will visit the graves of John and John Quincy Adams, a presidential two-fer getting me closer to my goal of visiting all presidential grave sites.