For Europe’s airports, this comes on top of heightened competitive pressures stemming from increasing airline dominance. The Low Cost revolution has clearly changed the rules of the airport-airline relationship, and airline consolidation is just pushing in the same direction. For those of you familiar with the ROUTES events, the image that springs to mind when entering these vast halls full of airports trying all they can to lure airlines is indeed that of an ‘airport superstore’. Nothing is more revealing than the fact that while airports pay a hefty price to get in there, airlines attend for free…
So, more than ever, it is all about boosting performance to make our airport business more competitive and build resilience. This is no small feat. Performance at an airport is truly multi-dimensional. It requires not only strong alignment within our own organisations, but also with our external stakeholders.
But the European airport industry can be proud of its track record – and of the contribution it is making to the performance of the entire aviation system.
Take charges to start with. In the past years, airports across Europe have made considerable efforts, where possible, to freeze or even lower their aeronautical charges. They have also changed the structure of these charges – significantly reducing charges paid by airlines. It is quite remarkable that in 2010, with passenger traffic growing by +4.2%, airlines ended up paying €353 million less in airport charges than in the preceding year. Their free lunch only got bigger, and that was probably instrumental in the traffic recovery.
But it is not just about charges – it is also about operational efficiency. European airports are actively engaged in A-CDM (Collaborative Decision Making) and A-CDO (Continuous Descent Operations). They are also embracing new technology and committed to SESAR. Behind these acronyms, lies the ability to maximise the use of existing capacity and further reduce costs. Cost control is indeed part of our DNA. In 2010, staff costs at European airports decreased by -10% and contracted services by -20%.
Therefore, it is no surprise that performance is at the core of ACI EUROPE’s advocacy efforts. Our campaign for revisiting existing EU slot allocations rules is focused on improving the performance of ground operations – through much needed improved slot usage rate, effective penalties for abuses and long overdue reconciliation between ATFM and airport slots. The same focus is guiding our request for airports to be empowered to set quality standards for ground handlers, as part of the new EU Regulation on ground handling.
For airports, performance and quality are two sides of the same coin. The new ‘Ground Coordinator’ operational concept that we are developing is aimed at putting airport operators in control of what happens within the perimeter of their facilities. It will offer a single point of contact on the ground for the newly established Network Manager of the Single European Sky. This will result in a virtuous circle of increased performance and better quality for all – passengers, airlines, ANSPs and airports. For our shareholders, it will mean the ability to get better returns through a more intensive use of our assets. There can only be winners.
Quality and the need for airports to keep evolving from infrastructure managers into service providers was the central theme of our 2012 Annual Congress that has just taken place this June in Madrid. Our host, Aena Aeropuertos, is at the forefront of this evolution complemented by a far-reaching business transformation. So it is quite fitting that its new President & CEO, Jose Manuel Vargas G?mez shares his vision and priorities with us.
The theme of quality runs right through this issue of Airport Business, with details of our recently released Digital Report 2012 outlining how airports are using social media & smartphone apps to improve quality. There are also articles on Aéroports de Paris’ initiatives to improve passenger service, Brussels Airport’s 360° approach to efficiency and London airports’ preparations for the biggest showcase of performance and efficiency in sports, the Olympic Games.