I was talking to a friend the other day, one who has been in the aviation industry a long time and worked with and for airlines for much of that time. He expressed to me, unasked and unprompted, his concern with the airline industry’s initiative to enact a National Airline Policy rather than a National Aviation Policy. How can we leave out all the other sectors, he wondered? Where would this kind of approach leave us? On the outside, looking in, he guessed.
That conversation turned my mind back to the speech Sen. Jay Rockefeller gave earlier this year to the Aero Club of Washington. Sen. Rockefeller was lamenting the fact that it took so long to get an FAA bill enacted, and I should say it was an effort he poured his heart and soul into. With much justification, he said that the reason was the aviation industry never came together. He implored us not to let that happen again. That, in large part, is why the ACI-NA board passed a resolution favoring a National Aviation Policy, and specifically mentioned policies to promote every sector.
So, back to my friend, the airline veteran. How do you square what Sen. Rockefeller asked us to do with what the airline industry, as a group, is doing? You cannot. Dividing the industry makes no sense. As I have written before in this space, the only real thing that is keeping the aviation industry as a whole from moving together is the airlines’ unwillingness to engage on the issue of airport infrastructure. I know they like to point to various countries
So when will the airlines get the message and work with the rest of the industry?
around the world as having enlightened policies, but the point they miss is they have AVIATION policies not airline policies. They use policies to build and modernize airport infrastructure that can benefit airlines but are banned/limited here, partly because airlines have decided to cut off their nose to spite their face.
I continue to hope the entire aviation industry can come together. Airports are willing and I know most other sectors are willing as well. So, why will the airlines not heed Sen. Rockefeller’s great advice and join the effort to come together?
I’ve spent a lot of time traveling this summer; as have several ACI-NA staff. Sure, some of it was vacation and some was family-oriented. Some of it was to attend ACI-related meetings.
But a lot of it has been to attend state and regional airport and aviation meetings, to discuss the ACI-NA airport finance agenda and our Airports for the Future effort (www.airportsforthefuture.org). I have been to the Florida Airports Council and the West Virginia Aviation Conference, and will be attending the New York Aviation Managers Association next month. Debby McElroy has been to the California Airports Council, the Texas Commercial Airports Association meeting and the Mississippi meeting. Jane Calderwood attended the Oklahoma meeting.
At the Florida Airports Council meeting earlier this summer.
We have gone to all of these in person. This allows all of us to rub elbows with our members where they live, and also to meet with airport and other aviation stakeholders who may not be ACI-NA members but whose views are of critical importance as we seek to shape the future of aviation policy in this country. These travels also provide strong evidence of the importance of air transportation to every region of this country.
All of these audiences understand that we need to change the way we do things in this country. They understand that the current system is not adequate, that our competitors are moving ahead of us, and that some others in aviation seek to keep the system static because it serves their own interests. It is true, there is not unanimous agreement on a certain specific way forward, but the general principles of a new aviation policy in this country are beginning to take shape. I will have more to say about those principles in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, please visit www.airportsforthefuture.org to learn more.
It needs also to be said that ACI-NA, through the efforts of our Canadian Airports Council office in Ottawa, is making a strong case for change in Canada as well. We have gotten the attention of a Canadian Senate committee on the critical issues of the (lack of) competitiveness of Canadian airport policies and we are working together to change various security and facilitation policies on both sides of the North American border. The imminent end of redundant bag re-screening and the Obama-Harper initiatives are evidence that this is taking hold. And, to continue a theme, I will be speaking at a meeting of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association in late October.
Next week we at ACI-NA are off to Calgary for the ACI-NA and ACI World annual conferences, and hope to see many of you. I will have more to say from there.