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Theme: Economics & Finance
Airport report: Seattle-Tacoma
Special report: WAGA review
Plus: Route development & Digital airports

Meet and greet

Editor, Joe Bates, reflects on the return of in-person industry events, the continued challenges of the global pandemic and the ‘Economics & Finance’ theme of this issue.

Although it might not exactly feel like it right now, the final four months of 2021 were better for aviation and the world’s airports, with most US gateways reporting busy Thanksgiving holidays and traffic across the globe showing a marked improvement on the same period a year ago.

The upturn – albeit largely applying to domestic travel and before the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID which has once again sent global alarm bells ringing – ensured the return of a number of in-person industry events for the first time since 2019.

These included the Customer Experience Global Summit in Montréal, Canada; ACI Europe’s Annual Congress and General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland; and most recently, the ACI-LAC/World Annual Assembly, Conference & Exhibition in Cancún, Mexico.

In Mexico, ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, could not hide his delight at being able to host his first in-person World Annual General Assembly (WAGA) since joining the organisation in the summer of 2020. Indeed, he mentioned how good it felt to physically meet up with colleagues and hold face-to-face discussions with them again several times during the event.

These included during his opening address, when he noted: “The fact that we are gathered under one roof here in Cancún is testament to the sector’s upward trajectory.”

You can discover more about some of the highlights of this year’s WAGA on pages 10-14 of this ‘Economics & Finance’ themed December 2021/January 2022 issue of Airport World.

The battle with COVID, of course, continues to present huge economic and operational challenges for airports as well as preventing the revival of international travel we all took for granted just two years ago.

The situation not being helped by individual countries continuing to act alone in their respective responses to the ever changing dynamics of the pandemic instead of working on globally agreed ways forward.

From December 7, for example, everyone travelling to the UK is required to take a PCR or lateral flow COVID test no more than 48 hours before departure – even if they are fully vaccinated – and take a second PCR test, booked before travel, within two days of arriving, self isolating while waiting for the results.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the UK’s Airport Operators Association (AOA) called the move “a devastating blow for aviation and tourism”.

In the themed section of the issue, ACI World’s vice president for economics, Patrick Lucas, pulls no punches in outlining the hugely damaging impact COVID has had on airport revenues and argues that the global economy needs aviation to recover sooner rather than later.

The section also contains stories about Ferrovial Airports’ business strategy and expansion plans; the economic balancing act facing airports as the aviation industry recovers; and TAV Airports’ decision to invest in Almaty Airport in Kazakhstan.

Elsewhere in the issue, we have features about innovative ways of rebooting airport retail/F&B; the new route development challenges facing Europe’s airports; how digitial technology is transforming the passenger experience; and ACI Africa’s secretary general, Ali Tounsi, reviews the impact the global pandemic has had on the continent’s airports.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira uses his final ‘View from Top’ article of 2021 to reflect on some of ACI World’s key initiatives of the past year.

Our main airport interview is with Lance Lyttle, the managing director for aviation at the Port of Seattle, who tells us more about the multi-billion dollar development of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and the gateway’s ambition to be the greenest airport in North America.

We round out the edition with our usual human resources focused, People matters, column.

And with that, another year bites the dust! Happy holidays everyone. Stay safe and I look forward to seeing you in person at an ACI event somewhere around the world in 2022.

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