By Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI EUROPE
Within days of our 26th Annual Congress & General Assembly, which took place in Athens last June, Istanbul-Atatürk Airport was struck by a deadly terrorist attack – the second such attack at a major European airport this year. Of course, we at ACI EUROPE immediately reached out to our friends and colleagues at TAV & DHMI – offering support and expressing our condolences. 11 employees from TAV were among the victims on 28 June.
Just like at Brussels Airport last March, the events at Istanbul-Atatürk have revealed both the worst and the best in humanity. The tireless dedication of airport staff in providing assistance to all those affected, as well as their amazing drive and stamina to restart operations, has been a great source of pride for our industry. And beyond the countless individual actions and hundreds of untold human stories that unfolded, this was also an account of leadership at its best. We should not and will not forget.
In aviation, every terrorist attack tends to trigger more regulations. Not this time. After Brussels, the debate about imposing systematic and EU-wide security checks at the entrance of airport terminals was short-lived. After Istanbul, that debate lost even more relevance. Systematic entry checks were in place at Istanbul-Atatürk, and they did not prevent the attack… This is now even reflected in the deliberations of ICAO’s 39th Assembly, which just concluded in early October.
Taking advantage of both the ICAO Assembly and the ACI WORLD & NORTH AMERICA Annual Congress, we took the ACI EUROPE Board to Montreal last month and met with Peter Neffenger, the new Chief of the US TSA (Transportation Security Administration). I was impressed by the Administrator’s willingness to challenge our current security system and his readiness to think ‘outside of the box’. His plans to refocus TSA on innovation and system integration are refreshing – and for the first time in a very long time, I came closer to feeling optimistic about aviation security.
While ACI EUROPE is currently working on Best Practices Guidelines for landside security, our Special Security & Crisis Management Summit (22-23 November, Brussels) will provide a unique opportunity to keep engaging the industry and our regulators on what remains the number one priority for airports, along with safety.
Meanwhile, we are also closely following the fallout of the BREXIT vote. If the decision to leave the EU has had no immediate material impact of air traffic levels, the fact remains that there is total uncertainty as to the kind of arrangements that will govern future UK-EU aviation relations. Air connectivity is a unique and indispensable enabler of economic activity, in particular for tourism, trade and foreign investment. On this basis, one would hope that BREXIT negotiators would seek to keep the UK and EU aviation markets closely integrated – as called for by ACI EUROPE just a few hours after the vote.
But this is not just about aviation. Postures and comments from all sides constantly remind us that BREXIT negotiations will be primarily a political exercise. And recent developments across our continent also point to political outcomes becoming more unpredictable than ever.
All in all, one thing has clearly emerged over the past months: geopolitical and terrorism risks are increasingly shaping our business – bringing about record levels of uncertainty and volatility. This is likely to be a new and lasting normal, at least in the short & medium term.