Category Archives: International Aviation

Drilling Down – International Aviation Issues Come Home

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke (second from right) discusses international security challenges at the 23rd AVSEC World

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke (second from right) discusses international security challenges at the 23rd AVSEC World.  Other panelists from left: Jim Marriott, deputy director aviation security and facilitation, ICAO; Calin Rovinescu, CEO, Air Canada; Jeff Poole, director general, CANSO; and Tony Tyler, director general and CEO, IATA.

Kevin M. Burke
ACI-NA President and CEO

A few weeks ago, I participated on a panel discussion during the 23rd AVSEC World, where I had the privilege to discuss the challenges in meeting future security demands amidst an uncertain global political climate with the heads of IATA, CANSO, and Air Canada, as well as ICAO’s deputy director of aviation security and facilitation.  As the panel’s sole airports representative, it was a valuable opportunity for me to share our industry’s perspective and recommendations for ensuring safe and secure commercial air travel, especially in an era of constrained governmental resources.

In both the United States and Canada, federal budgetary limitations continue to squeeze staffing levels at security checkpoints and international arrivals areas.  Meanwhile, recent alerts and threats pertaining to commercial air travel have resulted in increased security screening procedures.  This combination of factors has created quite the conundrum for North America’s airports: they’ve been tasked to do much more with much less, and failure is not an option.  In a perfect world, American and Canadian airports would be fully funded to carry out the security and facilitation initiatives mandated by Washington and Ottawa.  In reality, the fiscal environments in which our airports operate demand creative and collaborative solutions favoring the risk-based over the redundant.

Take for example the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck program.  From a practical perspective, PreCheck harnesses available data—provided by passengers on a voluntary basis—and intelligence information to serve as an indicator to guide the application of screening resources.  From the passenger’s perspective, it’s even more straightforward—no need to remove shoes, acceptable liquids, and other items that can slow down the line.  As I expressed to my fellow AVSEC World panelists, ACI-NA fully supports PreCheck, and we’ve been working with TSA to significantly increase enrollment.

Similarly regarding facilitation, ACI-NA has been a strong proponent of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry and the Canada Border Services Agency’s NEXUS programs, and we’ve encouraged the expansion of reciprocal agreements with other countries in order allow their citizens to participate in trusted-traveler programs.  We’ve also championed collaborative technologies to reduce administrative burdens, most notably the Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks and the Mobile Passport Control (MPC) smartphone app.  Like PreCheck, these initiatives have resulted in measurable gains for participating airports, their federal partners, and the passengers they serve.

ACI-NA’s International Aviation Issues Seminar, December 4-5 in Washington, is an opportunity to continue the conversation started at AVSEC World, and I’m pleased to note that our keynote address will be delivered by CBP’s acting assistant commissioner, John Wagner, who has been instrumental to realizing APC and MPC.  I hope that you’re able to join us and representatives from across the aviation community as we continue to discuss challenges and explore solutions in an increasingly complex world.

Getting Our Message Out There

By Kevin M. Burke
Over the last couple of days, I have had the chance to tell the airport story in several local and national forums.  My consistent message: Airports need greater funding flexibility and the ability to generate local dollars for local capital projects with a higher PFC ceiling.

In an interview with CNN that was focused on the poor standing of U.S. airports compared to our global peers, I noted, “there’s no question that U.S. airports suffer from an image problem globally, and the main culprit is our nation’s lack of dedicated infrastructure investment, particularly in its aviation infrastructure.”

“Many of our airports are operating well beyond the capacity for which they were originally intended several decades ago, and this is the reason why air travelers — international and domestic — experience crowded terminals and outdated facilities.”

I noted that the U.S. airport ownership model differs so dramatically compared to major airports around the world. Thus how we obtain funds and then use the funds is much more restricted than the corporate-owned, profit-driven airports.

Today in an op-ed published in The Hill, a publication that covers Capitol Hill and the federal bureaucracy, I wrote that “we could use more creative solutions, certainly, but greater flexibility at a minimum. Airports are a good case in point. Funded primarily from fees paid by airport users, airports urgently need a federal policy change that would increase the cap on the Passenger Facility Charges so that every local airport has the flexibility to invest in its own capital improvements.”

These are the kinds of policy hurdles that stymie transportation infrastructure investment at just the wrong time in our history, I noted. The cost of the status quo is clearly unacceptable. The time for more flexible federal transportation policy is now.

And, that was also my message on Thursday afternoon when I participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 13th Annual Aviation Summit on a panel concerned with Today’s Regulatory Environment. The panel was moderated by Washington Airport’s Jack Potter and joining me as speakers were former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey (now with AIA), Doug Lane from Boeing and Rob Wilson from Honeywell.

My colleagues on the panel had been able to incorporate the latest advancements in their systems, despite challenges with FAA certification, but I reported the airport industry has not been able to modernize its funding system. That has to change. “We need a regulatory system that allows airports to fund the critical safety, security and efficiency improvements that allow the United States to compete and win in the global aviation industry.”

At The Gate and Ready To Go

By Kevin M. Burke
Today I begin a new journey – my ACI-NA journey.

ACI-NA's President Kevin M. Burke

I am excited to join ACI-NA as the new president and CEO. As only the sixth president in 66 years, I know that ACI-NA has a well-earned reputation as a respected organization with a staff of experts that Congress, executive agencies and the media call on for expertise on airport issues. I am looking forward to the challenge of enhancing its reputation so that the Voice of Airports is heard by even more both inside the Beltway and throughout the aviation industry.

I traveled extensively in my 13 years with the American Apparel and Footwear Association passing through airports on six of the seven continents. (If I knew that I would one day hold this position, maybe I should have kept a log of each airport I visited.) As a well-traveled end-user, I hope to bring a new prospective to the on-going discussions about improving airport infrastructure in the United States and Canada to ensure our global competitiveness.

While I am not coming from the aviation industry, I recognize the critical role that transportation plays in every day commerce here and around the world. For example, my former employer takes an annual snapshot of the economic impact of the apparel industry. In 2012, 4 million Americans working in clothing and footwear firms helped you get dressed and that industry contributed $354 billion to the U.S. economy. But in order to succeed these firms had to depend upon a massive transportation network, since 97 percent of the goods are made internationally.

Today’s economy with on-demand manufacturing and worldwide next-day delivery expectations could not function without up-to-date and financially-sound airports.

My job here at ACI-NA is to help our member airports gain greater flexibility so that they can finance and build the capital projects needed to handle tomorrow’s travelers and cargo.

There are bound to be many challenges in the years ahead and while the flight at times may be bumpy – with expected and unexpected turbulence, I am confident the landing will be smooth and our goals for a safe, effective and financially sound North American airport industry will be achieved.

As I said, the journey has just begun. We are on the runway, centerlines in sight and we are taking off.  Time to throttle up!

Do airlines fact-check airport claims?


By Tom Smith
After an airport has that critical first meeting with an airline, such as at ACI-NA’s JumpStart, how much time does the carrier spend fact-checking the airport’s pitch presentation? It depends.

During the day-long ACI-NA International Aviation Issues Seminar on Thursday here in Washington, there were a few useful or insightful nuggets for airports from airlines, consultants and analysts.

Do airline route planners validate airport presentations?
“It depends,” said Sabine Reim, a former long-time British Airways route planner now with the London office of InterVISTAS.  If an airport simply claims that the community is the home to “x number” of Fortune 500 companies, then that will require further fact-checking. However, Reim said if the airport details the type of locations a Fortune 500 company may have and their travel (especially foreign travel) patterns, then an “overworked” airline planner is less likely to take the time to fact-check an airport’s information.

A trusting relationship or partnership between an airport and an airline route planner is essential, Reim said. Airlines have fewer people in route planning and a strong relationship helps. While the airline can get the information, the airport providing trust-worthy information certainly helps.

Southwest will be expanding in 2014 and 2015
With the final integration of AirTran into Southwest in 2014 and the end of the Wright Amendment restrictions, Southwest plans to begin its own branded international service as well as non-stop service from Dallas Love Field, said Robert W. Kneisley, the airline’s associate general counsel.

Southwest will take over the 25 AirTran international routes currently flying from eight cities and expand the route network to serve Mexico, the Caribbean and eventually northern Latin America. With the new international terminal that Southwest is building at Houston Hobby Airport, Kneisley said Southwest will compete with United with “Southwest” fares to Mexico.

In addition, Southwest will be competing with United in Dallas beginning next October when the Wright Amendment restrictions are lifted on Love Field. “There is a target rich environment and we will be able to compete with non-stop service with United flying out of DFW. Love to Baltimore, logical. Love to LaGuardia, logical. Love to Midway, logical,” he said.

Southwest flying to Canada?
Service between the U.S. and Canada is under-served and over-priced,” he said, further noting that U.S. carriers only fly regional jets between Washington and Ottawa. “Canada fits the Southwest target” and it would benefit from the “Southwest stimulus effect,” however, Kneisley said the barrier to entry is the “extremely high costs of Canadian airports.” The high landing fees and ticket charges would restrict the “simulative” effect of Southwest’s fares in that transborder market.

Where will the Dreamliner fly next?
It is only a matter of time before Philadelphia and Charlotte get B787 service to Tokyo with the new aircraft coming into the “new” American fleet. Miami won’t be far beyond and Phoenix will also get the service, said Seth Kaplan, editor of Airline Weekly.

Austin won the BA flights to London with 787 service because it had decent volume and the capacity for higher fares. Its yields, he noted, are higher than several potential competing airports that had greater volume.

While everyone is excited about the route combinations that a Dreamliner makes possible, Reim said this creates more competition for airports to land international service. It will be “tougher” because airlines will not be just considering east-west flights but now there are strategic reasons to fly north-south.

MPC Coming Soon to an Nearby Airport

By Caroline O’Reilly
MPC might not signify anything in particular now, but it could become the most popular three letters, after your airport’s code.

This afternoon during the conference’s press briefing, ACI-NA and Airside Mobile provided a sneak peek at Mobile Passport Control, a.k.a. MPC, which promises to help trim the amount of time spent waiting in line to clear Customs when entering the U.S.  A smartphone app similar in functionality to the automated kiosks currently available at O’Hare and Vancouver International airports, MPC will allow passengers to input their customs declaration and passport information and upload a photograph directly to CBP’s system.

“MPC will create a faster, easier experience for processing through Customs, which will really help travelers when they are tired and just want to get to their home or hotel,” said Hans Miller, Airside Mobile’s CEO.  “If you’ve ever used your phone to get a boarding pass or a movie ticket, you’ll feel right at home with this new process”

ACI-NA and Airside Mobile are working closely with CBP’s Office of Field Operations and Office of Informational Technology to put the final touch on MPC, which should be live by the end of the year.  Stayed tuned for future updates from ACI-NA on which airports will be in the inaugural class of MPC adoptees and when the app become available to travelers for both Android and iOS.