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Soapbox: Improving the Airline-Airport Relationship

Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World

Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World

First, let me state unequivocally that airports and airlines have more in common than not. Airports are committed to working together with our airline partners to improve the air transportation experience for all our passengers. 

I look forward to working alongside the IATA Director General and CEO, Tony Tyler, to protect the ability of the air transportation industry to support the economic vitality of communities all around the globe.
To continue to foster this partnership is a high priority for my board of directors. We have collaborated well in the past on matters where we share common goals. Let me mention three.

First: safety, our enduring priority. Airports Council International (ACI) and IATA participated in ICAO’s first Global Runway Safety Symposium in May 2011 in Montreal. ACI has offered to be the convener of Local Runway Safety Teams where all the players can work together at the local airport level to reduce the number of runway-related incidents and accidents worldwide. There is growing industry consensus that this is the pathway to gaining the next significant reduction in the aviation accident and fatality rate. 

For our part, ACI has launched the Airport Excellence in Safety program (APEX) as a cornerstone effort. We will provide guidance and training to member airports and recruit safety partners to provide peer review and on-site advice to raise the safety profile of all airports. ICAO is a strong partner with us and we also look to IATA, with its commendable safety leadership.

The environment is a second area where we share common goals and priorities, as demonstrated in our collaboration on the Air Transportation Action Group (ATAG). This has helped to redefine the environmental discussion at the global level. We clearly have a challenge directly facing us to gain a global, sectoral approach to climate change mitigation efforts, but ATAG has gone a long way to highlight the measurable steps that airports and airlines are taking to deliver a sustainable air transportation network.

Third, security screening and facilitation are common challenges for us. Airports and airlines share responsibility for the travel experience, and speaking out together on behalf of the customer is the right thing to do. Our forecasts indicate that we may serve 10 billion passengers worldwide by as early as 2027. Our present approach to screening will not be sustainable even with airport capacity enhancements. IATA, ACI, and other stakeholders continue to develop and advocate for a risk-based approach to the security challenge and we are gaining traction. As an industry, we must push for the kind of harmonized approach that ICAO can bring about to gain the level of security efficiency and efficacy we need.

Looking ahead, we have an emerging opportunity to collaborate on the advances that air traffic modernization technology will bring. The ‘alphabet soup’ of global industry stakeholders, ACI, IATA, ICAO, and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization can help the industry deliver solutions on air traffic management for the benefit of the stakeholders as well as for our customers and communities.

We understand that airlines are responsible to both customers and shareholders, just as airlines understand that airports are responsible to the customer and the communities that we serve. Despite some conflicting views on the financial operations of airports, we have much that binds us in cooperation rather than divides us in dispute. 

I look forward  to continuing the conversation and the collaboration.

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