Customer Service: High-Wires, High Stakes, and Extraordinary Opportunities

Whether you call it the #BlizzardOf2015 or #WinterStormJuno, Monday’s snowstorm along the northeastern states and Maritimes packed a punch, walloping road, rail, and air travel in the U.S. and Canada. But despite thousands of canceled flights, many airports remained open to serve travelers caught in the middle of the snow and their intended destination.

As coincidence would have it, ACI-NA’s 2015 Customer Service Seminar kicks off tomorrow in Reno, Nevada, where many airport customer service professionals will be joining us from around North America to explore best practices and fresh ideas on how to respond to exactly this type of scenario, when an average day becomes extraordinary for both the airport and the travelers it serves. Specifically, our second day’s agenda speaks directly to this, with a session on keeping customers and stakeholders in the loop when irregular operations throws everyone for a loop, followed by a interactive workshop simulating crisis communications. (We’ll have more on both these sessions later in the week.)

But it’s not all high-wires and the high stakes of crises— the other main focus of this year’s seminar is maximizing airport customer service in the moment and for the long term. Both the first and second days’ programming cover a broad spectrum of current trends and creative possibilities for airports to reach their customers throughout all parts of their departures and arrivals home. And our host, Reno-Tahoe International, will have their customer service initiatives in full-swing— such as their popular Paws 4 Passengers program— during the attendee airport tour.


We’re excited to get the conversation started! As always, follow us here at Centerlines, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Caroline O’Reilly
Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing

Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment

As do virtually all State of Union addresses, President Obama’s speech Tuesday evening spanned a wide range of themes encompassing both foreign and domestic policies, priorities, and prerogatives.  But if there was unifying thread throughout, it was that 15 years into the 21st century—and six years on from the largest global recession since the Great Depression—the United States is thriving.

One particular aspect that I was very pleased to hear the president mention at several key points was infrastructure:  “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.”  I couldn’t agree more, and it’s easy to see that airports absolutely fit into this conversation.  As we said in our countdown infographic on Tuesday, “Roads, rail, water, and air are what move American opportunity.”  Comprehensively investing in all our modes of transportation, and especially modernizing how we fund this infrastructure, strengthens the backbone of our economy and our global reputation as a country where products, services, and ideas flourish unobstructed.


But there is one element to the president’s vision regarding infrastructure that, unfortunately, could hamper progress in modernizing our airports.  It relates to an important source of funding for airport capital improvement projects: municipal bonds.

Although not explicitly mentioned in Tuesday’s State of the Union, President Obama has proposed to permit private entities to issue public municipal bonds.  Airports long have been open to idea of increasing opportunities for public-private partnerships—or P3s—as one approach to getting serious about tackling necessary capital improvement projects.

On the other hand, though, President Obama also has called for significantly increasing the cost of municipal bonds for public entities—such as airports—by proposing that tax deductions for municipal bond interest be capped for certain investors.  In short, this would mean that bond investors would then demand a higher rate of return from the bond issuer.  And this, in turn, would make the cost of the infrastructure projects that municipal bonds help fund only more expensive.

The U.S. in 2015 arguably is on far better footing economically than we’ve been in recent years, so it’s incongruous to me that we’d now want to create barriers to investment.  Instead we should be fostering easier market access and local control for airports to finance the new construction and upgrades they’ll need to keep pace with future demand and expectations.  Removing the tax-deduction cap on municipal bonds from his upcoming proposed budget—as well as also removing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) burden from private activity bonds, a form of municipal bonds—would be an exceptionally strong signal from President Obama that he is as optimistic about the future of our airports as I am.

Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO

State of the Union 2015: A Future for Airports?

Like other industries, the airport community will be closely watching President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address tonight.  And while we won’t know for certain what will be in the speech until the president delivers it, we expect our nation’s transportation infrastructure to be a major topic in tonight’s televised and webcast national update from Capitol Hill.

With so many key transportation items on tap for this year, including the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, the president would be amiss if he didn’t share his vision for modernizing our aging transportation infrastructure.

As such, we hope the president takes this primetime opportunity to outline his plan to work with Congress on achieving real success for America’s aviation system.  But regardless of what we hear tonight, ACI-NA and our partners aren’t skipping a beat when it comes to keeping the drumbeat going for airport priorities on Capitol Hill.  With the buzzword being that both the House and Senate are seeking to craft a “transformative” FAA reauthorization, our entire commercial aviation system is in play, and absolutely including airports.

To follow ACI-NA’s response in real time this evening, head to beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

George Kelemen
Senior Vice President, Government and Political Affairs

Connecting the Dots: Building the Beyond the Runway Coalition

This past summer, ACI-NA held our first event for what would become the AirportsUnited “Beyond the Runway” coalition.  Held at DCA’s historic terminal, representatives from more than 30 organizations and associations heard ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke explain the importance of airports to our economy and the interests represented in the room that day.

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke shares with attendees of the July 2014 event the amount of airport capital improvement projects necessary by 2017.

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke shares with attendees of the July 2014 event the amount of airport capital improvement projects necessary by 2017.

A few months later, in October ACI-NA hosted a follow-up recruitment event seeking to further our reach and grow the Beyond the Runway Coalition.

Kevin Burke greets Beyond the Runway coalition members at the October 2014 event.

Kevin Burke greets Beyond the Runway coalition members at the October 2014 event.

From the vantage point of today, I find it very inspiring that in less than year, the Beyond the Runway Coalition has gone from concept to fruition.  Through the culmination of planning and outreach, we have seen businesses and organizations outside the normal players join us in our efforts for modernizing how we fund airport infrastructure and capital improvement projects.

Last week, in a sense, was the public debut of this coalition, through the AirportsUnited ad in Politico.  It also was an announcement that the coalition’s work is far from complete—in fact, it’s just the beginning.  In the months ahead, the Beyond the Runway coalition will continue to grow and take action on behalf of airports.  Our partners understand the importance of a healthy and competitive commercial aviation system to their businesses and industries, and they’re motivated to act.  And as this coalition strengthens and more dots are connected between our partners and the economic potential of airports, the fuller the picture that will emerge.

Nathan Pick
Director of Advocacy