Summer 2023

issue 44

This is conference season. From March to June, many of us are lucky enough to attend events such as Routes Americas, Routes Europe, IATA’s Ground Handling Conference, the IATA Annual General Meeting, Jumpstart Air Service Development Conference, Paris Airshow and ACI World/Europe’s World Annual General Assembly.

Thank you to the cities and citizens of Chicago, Lodz, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Milwaukee, Paris and Barcelona for hosting airports, airlines, handlers – and representatives from ARGS. Hopefully more of us than ever are offsetting our carbon emissions as we make our business travels.

The common theme is that air traffic is back, almost universally across the globe. The passenger and revenue tracking spreadsheets that have been plastered with red over the past few years are now green once more.
As Tony Harrington, our correspondent based in Brisbane, examines in this issue, the traffic growth engine that is China is firing again, finally. It has, as Tony observes, emerged from its long Covid, on both the domestic and international fronts. Analysts say that China’s air travel market will recover fully by 2025.

Overall, the Asian powerhouse of travel demand will pick up where it left off in 2019, surging again for the remainder of this century. No doubt, Routes World, being held in Istanbul from 15-17 October, will see a return of the Chinese hubs eager to reclaim airline capacity that has been diverted to Europe, Africa, or the Americas.

The picture of traffic recovery was clear in Chicago and Lodz too. As is common in a post-crisis period, the winners are often the most agile and the ones with the lowest costs. In both continents, low-cost carriers are gaining ground. Ryanair in Europe and Spirit Airlines in the USA are great examples of carriers able to grab opportunities to sprout new connections at speed.
However, there are challenges. In the USA, the recovery is uneven, coming as it does amidst a continued pilot shortage, which has led to the elimination of regional airline flights to 300 smaller and mid-sized cities.
In Europe, the market continues to be driven by leisure and VFR demand, and business travel is lagging, with ACI Europe’s Olivier Jankovec seeing a structural trend in corporate travel as it is increasingly being decided on sustainability criteria that reflect pressures from shareholders, consumers and society.

One of the most poignant presentations in Lodz was from Oleksiy Dubrevskyy, Chief Executive of Kiev Boryspil International Airport, who attended Routes Europe to explain how the airport intends to reopen as soon as the war in Ukraine ends.
Welcome as it is, the abrupt traffic recovery of last summer 2022 caused chaos in some regions. The talk in Abu Dhabi at the IATA IGHC centred on the ability of the industry to cope this year. Everyone said they are confident the industry can manage the uptick. The impression was there are still plenty of fingers being crossed that it will.
For all players in the services industry getting through this summer is only the first challenge. The issue of recruitment and retention is pressing and will remain for several years. Wage inflation is commonly in the double-digit range and competition for staff is raging at many airports.

ARGS will report on all these issues as they ebb and flow over the course of this year, and more. We look forward to continuing to engage with colleagues at events – including the 2nd Airport Services Association Leadership Forum that will be held in association with ARGS in Athens on 20-22 September.

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