ACI EUROPE President Address: Turning commitment into action at a critical time

By Dr Yiannis Paraschis, President, ACI EUROPE

Dr Yiannis Paraschis

As I near the end of my second term as President of ACI EUROPE and prepare to handover to my successor after the 19th ACI EUROPE Annual Congress, it has been interesting to look back and take stock of all that’s changed since June 2007. Those days looks positively rose-tinted by comparison with the testing and turbulent times that have befallen the European economy since then. Open Skies, oil price fluctuations and severe fall-off in traffic could almost be described as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that our industry has seen in that time. Right now, all aviation industry stakeholders are experiencing the worst ever trading conditions. For their part, airports are dealing with a double-whammy: on the one hand, less aeronautical and commercial revenues due to continuously falling passenger numbers, on the other, increased capital costs due to the financial nature of the crisis. All over Europe, airports are implementing cost-cutting programmes, reconsidering investments, implementing hiring freeze and reducing their workforce – by up to 30% in some cases. Clearly, this is not business as usual.

ACI EUROPE has played a leading role in communicating to the EU institutions and European governments how we are being impacted and how we are reacting to this crisis. As part of these efforts, ACI EUROPE has formulated last March a proactive crisis strategy, based on 5 crisis-relief measures for the aviation industry. These measures are not about asking for preferential treatment and one-off assistance. They are about reconsidering existing policy and regulatory frameworks both at European and national level, so as to empower European airports to effectively contributing to economic recovery and reinforce the competitiveness of the entire European aviation system. More generally, our positioning on the crisis also reflects the fact that airports are now businesses in their own right, with their own specificities and challenges.

Getting recognition for this positive evolution of European airports has been one of the key priorities for ACI EUROPE under my Presidency. This has entailed raising the profile of our sector in Brussels and in other national capitals, precisely at a time when the EU has pursued an active airport policy – a development that we have always approached in a constructive spirit and with a sense of opportunity. Indeed, ACI EUROPE has worked a lot to further strengthen our relations with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council, as well as with EUROCONTROL and ECAC. At the same time, ACI EUROPE has also sought to maintain a cooperative dialogue with its industry partners and heighten awareness in the media.

Beyond the present crisis, our key challenges will remain capacity and its financing, the environment, security and air traffic liberalisation – all issues for which the EU is now a driving force. Airport Carbon Accreditation is a significant step in addressing our environmental challenge, not least because it turns into concrete action the resolution adopted a year ago by the European airport community, to reduce its carbon emissions with the ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral. With this landmark initiative, ACI EUROPE is making a substantial contribution to addressing the impact of aviation on Climate Change and securing our future licence to operate and grow. The fact that we are launching Airport Carbon Accreditation in Manchester on 16 June, in the midst of such difficult times, with many airports already signing up from Day 1, speaks volumes about our commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.

In the midst of these recessionary times, it is important to stress the pivotal role that aviation and airports in particular, have to play when economic growth returns. European airports must be prepared for that, if we are to avoid the looming airport capacity crunch and keep the communities we serve connected to the outside world.

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