I’m writing from the ACI Europe annual conference in Lisbon.
We had two days of board-related meetings at which a number of critical decisions were made including one regarding our effort to attain a better framework for financing airport infrastructure. As I’ve said in several speeches, articles, and interviews, the current model is broken and the government (with the support of the airlines) is actually blocking investment in infrastructure. We need to change this.
We also had a joint meeting with the ACI Europe board. We have this joint meeting every year. This year, it was our turn to cross the Atlantic. There are very similar economic pressures on both sides of the Atlantic and we explored those. The business and governance models at most European airports are very different than in North America (especially the U.S.), so it is interesting to compare approaches. Much like the National Football League, the airport industry is one where good ideas are on display and others feel free to learn from (steal) them.
We also discussed security topics- especially the European proposal to allow transport of liquids and gels- even though the technology does not exist to adequately screen them. TSA was very concerned about that and, in the end, the European authorities had to bow to reality and back away. They are now plowing ahead on a new deadline of 2013, which may be equally unrealistic.
When I travel the world to these meetings, I am always struck and assured by the high quality of people who run these airports. This year, ACI Europe has a change in board leadership. Ad Rutten from Amsterdam, a highly capable and energetic executive whose excellent work during last year’s volcanic ash crisis was well recognized, is leaving the chairmanship. He is replaced by Declan Collier from Dublin, equally smart and energetic. Declan has an excellent financial mind, is a very good communicator, and will do an effective job pushing the interests of European airports and their passengers
Olivier Jankovec is my counterpart at ACI Europe. Although young, he has wide and deep experience in aviation and is a great Director General for ACI Europe. He has had more than his share of crises to deal with, including the economic downturn, two ash clouds, conflicts in North Africa, and the liquids and gels controversy among other things. He has a tough job and they are lucky to have him.
It was also fun to run into Max Moore-Wilton, chair of the Sydney Australia airport and chair of ACI World. The ACI World board has had great leadership these past four years with Max and Jim Cherry from Montreal, who is here, and the results show. My friend Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI World is also here. I have written about her before and my respect for her is as high as can be. Airports global efforts are well led.
Sometimes when you travel, there is a lot of down time spent in the hotel. On this trip, that has not been the case. Between the opportunities to tour earlier in our trip and the meetings these past few days, there has been absolutely no down time. It has been an exhausting, challenging, memorable, and important week. If you ever get a chance, go to Portugal!!