Airports Council International (ACI), the trade body that represents airports around the world, has appointed a new chairman for a two-year term. Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) chief executive Bongani Maseko officially took over the role on 1 January this year and he tells Airside about the challenges that are amongst his current priorities to tackle
What will be your priorities for the first 12 months of your term with regard to the challenges that ACI, its member airports and the global aviation industry face?
ACI has developed specific strategies and identified priorities. As chair of the board, my role is to ensure guidance and monitoring of these.
ACI is the ‘voice of the world’s airports’ and interacts with world bodies and advocates for the global airports industry. Our international partner organisations include the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other UN organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). ACI is one of only a few organisations that have observer status with ICAO and we also have consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN/ECOSOC).
ACI’s mission is to act as an economic catalyst while providing effective and quality airport services appreciated by the members of the global aviation community, contributing to sustainable, safe and secure development of air transport across the globe.
Airports are increasingly relevant as a mode of transport in a globalised environment and international passenger numbers continue to show healthy growth, despite the uncertainty that affected the global economy and the aviation sector throughout 2017. For example, Heathrow (up 3%), Los Angeles (up 5%), Oslo (up 6.6%), Manchester (up 8.5%), Glasgow (up 5.8%) and Edinburgh (up 14%) recently unveiled record-breaking traffic figures for 2017.
Airports form part of a wider context that connects them to other industries that are engines for the local economies and communities we serve. As such, they directly contribute to sustainable economic growth, employment and poverty reduction. For airports to continue to be generators of value, investment in sustainable value is vital. This means airports need to keep up with infrastructure, exercise environmental stewardship and maintain community engagement. In 2018 ACI will connect the aviation community to its broader network of global stakeholders.
ACI will continue to engage the entire airport community on issues of customer service excellence through the ACI Forums that we will host in 2018 for our aviation community stakeholders.
ACI will also continue to work in partnership with governments, regulators and other aviation bodies in addressing issues of sustainability, safety and security, airport environments, human resources, customer service excellence, innovation and technology, passenger facilitation and the airport of the future.
How will you go about tackling those challenges? What new strategies do you expect to put in place or to employ to make ACI even more influential?
As ACI, we will co-operate with regional actors of the industry and others for the improvement of the aviation system and its public perception on a regional and international scale.
We will build on our existing programmes to increase professional excellence and conformity with international standards and best practices in our global airports and target local and regional legislation and regulations for the benefit of airport operators.
Finally, we will spearhead the efforts of the global aviation community to co-operate successfully to defend the interests of the airports at international level towards the cohesion of ACI as a single entity representing all airports across the world. This will include building ACI organisational capacity across the five regions where we have bases.
Will you be working closely with Angela Gittens in her role as director general of ACI World?
I will continue to work well with Angela Gittens. I had already been working with her in my capacity as vice chair. Similarly, we will continue to work closely with IATA, ICAO, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) and other fraternity bodies.
Do you think that ACI itself needs to evolve in any way, perhaps as a result of the rapid changes we are seeing in the aviation industry?
ACI is dynamic and very adaptive as an organisation, as has been seen in the space of security and IT, for example. We will continue to be the world’s voice for airports and aviation in general.
We see ourselves as needing to understand the ways that aviation and the airline industry are moving so that airports are best able to provide the physical and online infrastructure they need. However, in addition, ACI is ideally positioned to share its ideas and plans that can help our customers in developing their long-term strategies.
What role can ACSA and other airport authorities play in helping ACI to better represent the world’s airports?
ACI’s World Governing Board and the Regional Boards comprise representatives of airports around the world, and this puts ACI front and centre in understanding airport issues.
In each of their own markets, our members are already involved in sharing ACI’s insights and viewpoints with stakeholders, particularly in the policy and regulatory spaces. We want to ensure that we get regular feedback from member airports about the responses and attitudes in their own markets and that we equip them for continuing engagement with authorities.
It must be noted that ACI is not primarily a body for imposing identical standards and practices at airports around the world. We are in many ways a best-practice organisation that seeks to empower members and influence policy makers and regulators on matters that affect the passenger experience and the efficient operations of airports.