Thursday, January 22, 2015, marked my one year anniversary as president and CEO of ACI-NA. In that time, I have deepened my appreciation for the complexities of modern air travel. I have also learned how important ACI-NA’s work is for North American airports to be successful in serving their passengers and communities. While there is no shortage of challenges, I view them as another opportunity to learn about this wonderful airport industry and to ensure that we are constantly improving the service we provide to our members in both the United States and Canada.
It was very fitting that I spent my one year anniversary meeting with key Canadian and U.S. government officials and industry stakeholders in Ottawa. During my meetings, we were able to discuss many of the trans-border issues, including security, passenger facilitation, trade, and intergovernmental collaboration, that keep a lot of you up at night. The meetings were very productive, and we left with action items we will be following up on in the coming months.
While in Ottawa, I was able to perform an “under the hood” tour of Ottawa International Airport. As I have said before, these tours offer me a valuable education about the difficulties of operating a 21st century airport. While each airport tour is unique, there is one feature that remains the same. The airport director is always most proud of something the public never gets to see, like Ottawa’s new baggage handling system. What Mark and his team have been able to accomplish is truly amazing.
With 38 of these tours now under my belt, I have been able to develop a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face together as we advance our aviation system. I look forward to continuing my tours of North American airports in the coming year.
My big takeaway from my trip to Canada relates to ACI-NA’s role in promoting intergovernmental and industry collaboration across the border. The U.S. government and the Government of Canada are eager to work together, but many officials have questions as to how they can achieve meaningful progress on initiatives like Beyond the Border. With strong presence in both national capitals, ACI-NA is well-situated to offer support and expert guidance as the United States and Canada begin to move on to the next phase of Beyond the Border, especially as major policy debates unfold in both countries this year through the review of the Canada Transportation Act and reauthorization of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
As U.S. President Barack Obama said in his recent State of the Union address, “21st century businesses need a 21st century infrastructure.” I could not agree more. To that end, your organization is working tirelessly on these important matters because of the long-term impact these issues will have on airport operations for years to come. The Canadian Policy Board, through the Canadian Airports Council, has just submitted policy recommendations on the review of the Canada Transportation Act. ACI-NA’s U.S. Policy Board continues the steady drumbeat on airport priorities as part of FAA reauthorization discussion in Congress. ACI-NA continues to build its visibility on both of these fronts.
Outside of the policy arena, challenges continue to mount before the industry, and ACI-NA is ready to help our members confront these obstacles. Just a few months ago, more than 45 percent of responding airport directors told us air service development was the single biggest challenge facing North American airports. More than 40 percent of airport directors said air service will continue to be challenging over the next five years. As such, ACI-NA is responding to member needs.
In June, ACI-NA will launch our re-imagined JumpStart® Air Service Development Conference on June 1 – 3, 2015, in Seattle, WA, as a stand-alone networking event designed to bring airports and airlines together. Planning has already started, and I assure you this year’s conference will be unlike any other air service development conference available. Our Small Airports Committee will also be able to meet together during this conference to discuss issues unique to their airports while still having access to recruit new airline partners.
As an association, we must continually provide the most up to date information to ensure our members are able to stay ahead of tomorrow’s challenges. Our brand-new Business of Airports Conference, set to be held April 20 – 22, 2015, in Phoenix, AZ, does just that. By bringing three conferences together – commercial management, finance, and human resources – we are able to reduce organizational silos and empower airport leaders to make smart, strategic decisions about non-aeronautical revenue and talent management.
Other upcoming conferences of note include the ACI-NA/AAAE Spring Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., on March 3 – 4, the Security, Operations, Environmental, and Business Information Technology Conferences in Vancouver, BC, on March 22 – 25, and the biennial Airports Canada Conference and Exhibition in Vancouver, BC, on March 25 – 27. More information can be found at www.aci-na.org.
The immense challenges looming over the horizon require us to maintain a global vision. We have to be able to adapt to those challenges we might not yet be able to see. That is where your association can be most impactful, and we are ready for the challenge. We look forward to providing you additional updates in the coming months. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have or if I can be of assistance to you or your respective teams.
Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO