I spent the last two evenings and part of Monday at the Airport Revenue News conference. More than 700 airport staff and concessions company representatives attended the meeting held at the Washington National Harbor Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in Maryland.
Last night, ARN saluted airports and concessionaires for the quality of their programs as they handed out their annual awards. There are so many great and interesting things going on in the world of airport concessions and it is a great opportunity to get a sense of all that is going on.
There was a time when you could get anything you wanted to eat at an airport, as long as it was a hot dog or a cold piece of pizza. You could buy anything you wanted, as long as it was the local paper or a t-shirt. Now, the world is almost literally yours! Airports, and their concessions partners have developed products and services that not only make the airport experience more enjoyable for the passengers, that not only provide food and goods you might need in a pinch, that not only help provide a sense of place to travelers, they are also a crucial linchpin in the airport effort to better serve the customer.
When airlines were deregulated, airports were seen as mere facilities, and airlines were supposed to be free to better serve the customer. Today, the aluminum tube is the facility, and the REAL customer service nexus is the airport. As airlines decided to de-emphasize (for cost or other reasons) basic services (and even courtesy), airports filled the breach. Seeing the airports and companies who were recognized last night just brought that point home.
Also honored were ARN’s Small and Large Airport Directors of the Year. In the Small Airports category, Patrick Graham of Savannah was the winner. In addition to running one of the most beautiful airports in the country, Patrick is one of the industry’s best financial minds. Perhaps his greatest legacy will be his organization of southeastern airports into the South East Airports Disaster Organization Group or SEADOG. SEADOG airports spring into action whenever disasters strike; for example help from SEADOG was on the way to places like New Orleans and Gulfport before Katrina had even begun to do its damage. What a great legacy.
In the Large Airports category, Danny Murphy of Phoenix was the winner. Danny has been director only 5 years, but in that short period of time has done a great job mobilizing the community to support the airport and its growth, overseeing a rail project that will bring great passenger benefit for a long time to come. Danny is always willing to pick up the phone and reach out to his legislators in Washington to try to move the overall industry agenda forward. Both of these men have in place very strong staffs, and they allow those staff people use their talents for the betterment of the whole industry. It is an honor to be able to work with both of them.
I want to end with two RIP’s. First, Duke Snider, Hall of Fame center fielder for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Snider is probably best known to younger fans from the song “Talking Baseball” when they sing about “Willie, Mickey and The Duke.” Mays, Mantle and Snider made center field the glamour position in American sports. You’ll never convince my parents, old Dodgers fans, that The Duke wasn’t the best of them.
Second, Frank Buckles. Who is that, you might ask? He was the last surviving U.S. serviceman who fought in World War I. I remember as a kid seeing the World War I vets march on Memorial Day; even saw some Spanish-American War vets too. World War I is the less well known of the two world wars (some would say that they were part of the same war, with a 15-20 year truce in the middle). My grandfather fought in that war; he was gassed 12 days before its end. I’ve tried to learn a bit more about it; the conditions those people fought in were among the most horrible in the annals of human history. It is hard to believe that no one remains who we can ask about those days.