Editorial: Putting customers first

By Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI EUROPE

Olivier JankovecAs competition has become the rule of the game for airports across Europe, the need to attract and retain customers is now key to airport operations. This means focusing on both airlines and passengers, making sure that airport facilities and services not only cater to their needs, but actually anticipate them. Dialogue, innovation, proactive partnership approaches are not just words, they actually translate into successful strategies that can act as an engine for growth, boosting the regions and communities that rely on their airports to be connected to the global world.

The Brussels Airport Company, which is featured in this issue, is just one very interesting example of what can be done in this area, showing how far airports are prepared to go. Yet, there is no standard formula for an easy ride as airports have to juggle with conflicting interests and carefully weigh up all the options. In the case of Brussels, whilst counteracting strikes at the airport last year by granting free charges to the airlines affected pleased all, developing a low cost terminal out of an old unused facility is likely not to. Devising the right strategy is always a balancing act, but it is one that in the end needs to focus on opportunities for growth.

It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and that passengers’ interest does not necessarily coincide with airlines’ interest. In this regard, the role of airports as drivers of aviation competition is more and more relevant. This means that airports must be in a condition to invest and develop the infrastructure needed in time to meet the ever-increasing demand. ACI EUROPE is firmly committed to ensuring that the looming airport capacity crunch becomes a true priority issue for the EU’s Transport policy. We also spare no effort to redress the imbalance of the proposed EU Directive on airport charges, which should be about incentivising airports to invest in new capacity and not about costly and useless regulation that would particularly affect fast-developing regional airports and emerging hubs. Indeed, it is striking to see how airport charges and capacity are linked and how passengers’ interests have been given little consideration in the above mentioned Directive. Getting passengers to the airport is proving as important as getting airlines to open new routes. Luring the travelling public with excellent facilities is a competitive issue – after Madrid-Barajas Terminal 4 and Paris-CDG Terminal S3 last year, watch out for London Heathrow Terminal 5 this March! Airports are increasingly developing integrated approaches with their commercial partners and local stakeholders, but the present security regime remains an everyday battle. These issues will be looked at in-depth at our Trading Conference, which takes place in Verona in February. Just like our member airports, ACI EUROPE is also focusing on the passenger experience. We are presently assisting with the EU passenger rights campaign, preparing for a smooth implementation of the new regulation for passengers with reduced mobility, having partnered with the European Commission and European disability forum.

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