At Salt Lake, I spent several hours with the very talented airport director, Maureen Riley. When I first took the job, Maureen was CFO at Orlando and chair of our Economics Committee. (She is now on our board and chair of our Government Affairs Committee). Maureen has a smart and level-headed manner about her and has moved on several fronts to update the business and the appearance at the airport. She has a terrific staff and I had a chance to meet with several of them who are active in many ACI-NA committees. Our committee structure affords us a chance to tap the talents of airport staff across a wide range of disciplines in order to help them share best practices and provide them excellent educational opportunities. One airport director calls ACI-NA committees “graduate school” for his staff.
The committee structure also enables us to draw on real world experience as we develop the policy priorities we pursue in the regulatory and legislative arenas. Salt Lake has had a number of staff take important roles in our committees and in ACI World Committees as well.
The mountains around Salt Lake City are breathtaking, I think, and the city looked especially beautiful this time.
I went from Salt Lake City to Seattle, which is run by another real industry talent, Mark Reis (also a former board member and former chair of both our Economics Committee and our Government Affairs Committee). Mark may have the best view of any airport person in America, a spectacular view of Mt. Rainer.
Mark has also encouraged his staff to be active in our committees, indeed, three of his staff now chair ACI-NA committees and a fourth is a vice chair. Other staff members have chaired committees in the past and have served on ACI World Committees.
Both of these airports see the value in working with industry colleagues for the betterment of the industry as a whole; one of the reasons the airport industry is so strong.
While in Seattle, I also had a chance to see some of the facilities used to process and care for military dependents who have been evacuated from Japan since the earthquake and tsunami. It is a massive cooperative effort by the airport, military and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and is impressive. Most of the evacuees are mothers and children and the kids are all as exhausted as they are cute. There are also animals and pets, so the airport went out and bought dog food and kitty litter.
Many of the evacuees had no idea they were leaving until a day or two before getting on the plane. In some cases, not all documents are in order, in most cases onward travel must be arranged. Medical care is needed for many of them. Special care is taken with every one of them.
I have often called airports the new global town square and this is a prime example of an airport as far more than just a place to board a plane.
I am so proud to work on behalf of an industry that has so many talented people like all those I saw in Salt Lake City and Seattle, and an industry that steps up to the plate in tough times as I saw in Seattle as those evacuees were cared for.