Winging out of Toronto on a A380

I’m sitting in the lounge at Toronto Pearson Airport on the way to the ACI World annual conference in Kuala Lumpur. Just had some great chicken noodle soup! 

Ann Principato

Ann Principato in our "suite" on the Emirates A380.

We will travel on Emirates Airlines, connecting in Dubai and flying the A380 on the Toronto-Dubai leg. I’ve never flown on the A380 so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll let you know what I think. 

Before leaving, I attended the semi-annual board meeting of the Canadian Airports Council. A doctor from what they call “Quarantine Services” spoke about H1N1. There was talk about the rent airports up here must inexplicably pay the federal government, about security, safety and a number of other issues. There was also a great deal of talk about the need to examine the cumulative regulatory burden placed by government, a burden felt especially by smaller airports. 

We also talked about ways ACI-NA’s U.S. and Canadian members can work more closely with one another. 

Before I came up here, I spoke to a meeting of the Airline Services Council of the National Air Transport Association (NATA). These are people who provide ground handling and other services at our airports. We don’t agree on every single issue but we have worked together on security, working to pass FAA Reauthorization and on beating back attempts to impose onerous new firefighting regulations. I truly believe that various interests within aviation have much more in common than not, and it is important to work together and communicate. We had a great exchange and will be following up on several issues. 

I’m going to get a little more to eat and get ready to board that A380. I’ll report back!

Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world

Less than two weeks ago I was in Austin, Texas at our annual conference with more than 1,700 airport professionals from all over the North America. The men and women who run and staff our airports posses a rare combination of political, economic, technical and business skills. They run the institutions that connect their communities to the world and they directly serve, in the U.S .and Canada, well over 700 million passengers per year. And, as I have written many times before, airports are on the front lines serving our passengers at a time when airlines have abdicated many of the responsibilities they once shouldered. 

On Tuesday, I will leave for Toronto to attend the board meeting of the Canadian Airports Council. One of the real joys of this job is the ability to work with our Canadian members. The ownership model is different there, and airport leaders have a few more options than do their U.S. counterparts. Some of my favorite folks in this business run Canadian airports. There is an energy there that you can feel when you visit, as I do several times a year. 

kuala_lumpur_logoWhen that meeting is over I will leave for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to attend the ACI World annual meeting. (Flying on an A-380 operated by Emirates Airlines — that should be quite something). That conference will include airport leaders from every corner of the world, including several from developing world airports whose participation is made possible by contributions from airports in the developed world. I will be on a panel about environmental issues. 

So, within just three weeks I will be spending time around airport leaders from literally every corner of the world. I expect to come back energized, inspired and renewed in my confidence that the airport is where the action is in today’s aviation industry.

Remembering a Warm and Trusting Person

This entry has little, if anything to do with aviation but it’s called Greg’s Blog so I guess I can write about something else. 

greg-blog-photoI’m on a train headed back home from a day in New Jersey visiting my family. My younger sister, Carol Anne, passed away this morning after fighting diabetes, congestive heart failure and at least a dozen other serious physical and psychological ailments for the last decade or two. 

Carol Anne had 8 kids and 3 grandkids, and since we are all made in the image and likeness of God that’s quite an accomplishment. She wasn’t well known or even all that well traveled (though she did enjoy Atlantic City and also her couple of trips to the Bahamas). She did enjoy hearing about all the different places I go to; I remember calling her from Regina, Saskatchewan when she was getting ready for her heart bypass a few years ago and she enjoyed saying “Saskatchewan” over and over. I looked forward to telling her about my recent trip to Jerusalem, and an upcoming trip to Dubai and Kuala Lampur but didn’t have a chance. 

She was someone who saw the good in everyone and wanted to like and trust everyone; a rare and wonderful quality (and one she shared with my wife). In her life she came across a few folks who, unfortunately, took advantage of that quality. Some might jump to the conclusion that we should withhold affection and trust, but I would say the moral of her story is that we should all strive to justify whatever affection and trust others place in us because those are great gifts indeed. And, we should all try to find the best in one another even when we might strenuously disagree. 

Carol Anne Principato. RIP

Airlines Trying Out New Line to Oppose PFCs

I’m now back home from Austin after an exhausting and exhilarating week in Austin with 1,800 airport professionals — the largest airport gathering in the world. 

The Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch near Austin.

The Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch near Austin.

Before we left Texas we visited the LBJ Ranch and had a great tour thanks to Ranger Reese. I was a kid during LBJ’s presidency (turned 13 the year he left) and so it brought back some memories. We also saw his gravesite — brings to 21 (out of 38) presidential gravesites I’ve visited. 

Over the past few days I’ve heard airline industry officials repeat the same line:  now is “not the time” to increase the limit on the passenger facility charge. This seems to be the new talking point in a coordinated attempt to keep airports from being able to meet passenger needs by building and refurbishing aviation infrastructure. 

I will have a lot more to say about this in coming weeks. It is clear airlines think this is a wonderful time to charge you $100 to take a couple of bags with you on a roundtrip ($400 for a family of 4 — how much goes to airline executive bonuses?). But it is “not the time” to pay an extra $5 to $10 roundtrip (all of which goes to projects) in order to put more and better runways, taxiways and terminals in place. I wonder if this is why airlines don’t really want to see an FAA reauthorization bill passed?  Or is it because the bill will include consumer protections for passengers? 

I will have more to say in the coming weeks on this.

Great Time in Austin

We just finished the final sessions of our annual meeting in Austin, Texas. 

The last session I attended included presentations by three of the sharpest minds in our industry, Jeff Fegan, director at Dallas-Fort Worth, Jeff Hamiel, director at Minneapolis and Kim Day, director at Denver. They talk about customer service, about the importance of a strong workforce and about the business of running an airport. I wish all our passengers could hear airport directors like those three, and hear first hand their commitment to their passengers. 

DFW's Jeff Fegan, Denver's Kim Day and Jeff Hamiel, of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

DFW's Jeff Fegan, Denver's Kim Day and Jeff Hamiel, of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

I also had a chance to meet today with a number of key officials at TSA who came down to meet with airport professionals in a continuing effort on the part of TSA and the airport industry to improve our ability to work together to serve passengers and keep them safely moving through the system. 

We gave our highest award, the William Downes Award, to Paul Gaines. Paul was director of both the Houston and Salt Lake City airports. Paul was also a former chair of ACI-NA and of ACI World. His legacy of hard work, innovative thinking, a willingness to take on tough projects and his passion for the industry is an example for us all. The fact that several students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University were there to hear his talk was an added bonus. 

We also gave our highest marketing/communications award (the Peggy G. Hereford Award) to the Edmonton, Alberta airport and our highest environmental awards to the airports at Burbank, Dallas-Ft Worth, Reno-Tahoe and Toronto. 

We also named our new chairman today, G. Hardy Acree, the airport director in Sacramento, California. Hardy will do a great job leading our industry into the year ahead. 

The Austin-Bergstrom Airport, its director, Jim Smith, VP of Marketing Jamy Kazenoff and their staffs did a great job of making us all feel welcome, and the airport they run is a great example of a commitment to their community and their passengers. 

The ACI-NA annual meeting involves a lot of hard work, but it is such an energizing experience and a great chance for the terrific professionals in the airport industry to meet and share experiences and prepare for the future.

Greetings from Austin

Greetings from Austin. I’ve been here since Thursday attending the ACI-NA Annual Conference and Exhibition. We have roughly 1,700 attendees. There are more than 100 airports from the U.S. and Canada represented and our exhibition contains over 100 companies in over 200 booths. I love spending time on the exhibit floor, I call it the Airports Industry’s state fair. 

Peter Bergen addressing ACI-NA.

Peter Bergen addressing ACI-NA.

Our keynote session this morning featured Peter Bergen from CNN.  Peter is a national security correspondent, one of the best in the business. He gave a 45 minute tour of the world’s trouble spots and discussed the present nature of the terrorist threat in the US and around the world. His talk sparked a number of questions and has sparked a lot of conversation here. We try to bring keynoters in who can help our members understand the global context in which they run their business, and who will make them think. I believe we succeeded this year. 

We also had a tribute to Bill DeCota the aviation director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who passed away last month. He had a lot of friends in the industry and many of them are here this week. 

Austin is a really terrific town. I’ve had a lot of great food, heard some good music (I’m not a country music fan but there is some great music here.) There are few towns where you will find friendlier people and few airports more pleasant to spend time in. 

We were also a focal point of the college football universe Saturday as Texas played Colorado. The stadium is a few blocks away and the hotel felt like a student center on campus. There are few things more exciting in my book than college football. 

I look forward to these next few days in Austin and encourage you to follow the goings on by going to our web site.