British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill is credited with first saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” It is believed he was referring to the post-WWII political environment in the lead-up to the formation of the United Nations.
This phrase, which has become something of a business cliché, is being overworked as businesses emerge from the pandemic gloom of the past few years. Some will truly restructure and pursue radically different strategies. Others will roll out a trusted method and stay their previous course. No one answer fits all, of course.
Where is crisis-induced change likely, possible or even good? The most obvious answer is aviation’s sustainability drive and the target to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Everyone is on that mission as they should be.
The focus for airlines , though, is on network restoration. There are few revolutions in the quest to fill airplanes again. It will take new sustainable aviation fuels and new propulsion technologies for change to take hold. Engineering boffins are on the case.
Airports are not much different but they have less room for manoeuvre. Their business model is more rigid, and many are saddled with new debt to pay off. Most have frozen or cancelled development plans and new capacity can wait, for now.
There is a desire for reinvention though. The reform of airport charges is a key area as Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general of ACI World, explained to delegates at the joint Airline Ground Services Summit and Airport Services Association Leadership Forum held in Athens during September..
For de Oliveira, the current regulatory framework is too rigid and needs to be replaced with a more commercial approach that includes risk sharing between airports and airlines. “We need to rethink airport charges,” he said. “In good times the charges go down, in bad times charges go up.” This is counter-productive, he argues.
Money will also be a topic of conversation at the upcoming Routes World event in Las Vegas, but Airlines will expect airports and tourism bodies armed with talk of incentives and marketing support on offer rather than charges reform.
After a hell of a summer, marked by resurgent passenger numbers on the one hand, and horrific operational disruption for many on the other, delegates in Athens wondered what the winter months will bring and about the prospects for 2023. Keynote speaker, Mehmet Nane, chairman of Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines, is pessimistic because the pent-up demand seen in 2022 will have dissipated by next year. “I have serious doubts about 2023 being a year of continuing recovery. The footsteps of recession are coming, starting in China.”
For the ground services industry, the gathering in Athens highlighted an industry struggling to deliver a quality service, let alone make money. Most players have been in crisis mode all year and business will remain acutely difficult for months to come. Experienced staff have left the industry in droves, and nobody knows how to replace them.
The last word goes to Aviapartner managing director Richard Prince, speaking at the CEO panel in Athens: “We need to restore a level of pride and respect to our industry. This means turning a transaction at an airport today into a service. If we don’t, lowcost wins and we become a transaction industry. We’ve got to bring back that sense of service.”
Featured in this issue
ANA sets a new course
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Back to Las Vegas
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Chronic pilot shortage hits US airports
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Connecting at the Congress
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Costa Rica: a central attraction
Hermes Navarro del Valle from the Institute of Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) spoke to ARGS on the growth and aims for this Central American country over the next 10 years at Air Service World Co...Read More
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India’s new handler
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Oakland bounces back
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Playing a central role
Swissport is centralizing some back-office tasks to make its operation more efficient and deliver cost savings. It is not an easy task to turn a global crisis in the form of a pandemic into a succe...Read More
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Ready for the World Cup
The list of achievements for Qatar Airways in 2022 makes impressive reading. In the 25th year since it was relaunched in 1997 the Doha-based carrier posted record financial results, stepped in at shor...Read More
Southern California dreaming
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Tampa’s London leap
Tampa Bay’s connection to the global business world took a big leap recently when Virgin Atlantic announced it was launching year-round direct flights between Tampa International Airport and London�...Read More
The great resignation
“I have never seen anything like it in my 12 years [as chief executive],” Candace McGraw, who runs Cincinnati International Airport, told delegates at the ASA Leadership Forum. She was speaking on...Read More
A persistent theme at the ASA Leadership Forum chief executive panel was whether the industry will extract true learnings from the Covid pandemic. “The worst is behind us, but I am also worried abou...Read More
The Rwandan connection
The deepest involvement in African air transport for Qatar Airways is a leading role in developing Rwanda’s airline and airport operations. In October 2019 the carrier took a 60% stake in the compa...Read More
The sun begins to rise for JAL
Japan Airlines is nearing a long-awaited return to profit, having reported a significant easing of Covid-caused losses in its first financial quarter of 2022. Citing increased vaccination rates and g...Read More