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Director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, reflects on some of ACI World’s key actions and initiatives over the past year.

Following the recent ACI-LAC/World Annual General Assembly, Conference and Exhibition in Cancún, the airport community was more optimistic than ever regarding the recovery path and future of the industry. However, the Omicron variant has once again brought into focus the fragility of air transport’s recovery and the urgent need for governments to co-ordinate and implement evidence-based travel measures. 

The current patchwork of travel restrictions around the globe continues to affect the global aviation system and the millions of livelihoods that depend on the trade, tourism, and investment that air transport provides.

Nonetheless, I remain positive and hopeful that these recent developments are a bump on the road to aviation and tourism’s sustained long-term recovery. If ACI and airports’ achievements over the past year have been telling of our resiliency, airports will undoubtedly continue to adapt and recover.

Thus, as the year comes to a close, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on just a few of the ways that ACI World has evolved and supported its members throughout the sector’s restart and recovery in 2021, particularly as it looks towards the new year. 

One of the main areas of ACI World’s advocacy and development of its product and services has been sustainability, which includes social, environmental, and economic pillars. As the sector rebuilds, airports have an opportune chance to place sustainability at the core of their strategies. 

A prominent example has been the global commitment to a Net Zero Carbon Goal by 2050 which came from the ACI Long-Term Carbon Goal Study. To reach this ambitious goal will require a joint commitment across the aviation ecosystem as well as from governments, but the momentum is stronger than ever.

ACI was active at ICAO’s High-level Conference on COVID-19 (HLCC) in October. ACI – along with industry partners – presented a joint industry statement welcoming the Declaration by ministerial participants to support the long-term resilience and sustainability of the aviation ecosystem, including their commitment to work on long-term climate goals.  

Besides our advocacy, ACI released several sustainability guidance materials over the year, most recently the Sustainability Strategy for Airports Worldwide. It builds on the ACI Europe Sustainability Strategies and provided an overview of how airports can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is the first overview of the most relevant and common sustainability issues for airports globally. 

As we move into 2022, we will increasingly see the finance community call for more uniformity on the way stakeholders report on sustainability. For airports, identifying scope is the first step to developing a consistent approach, where their own achievements can be measured and benchmarked against global frameworks. This publication supports airports and, in turn, ACI’s advocacy efforts with ICAO and other stakeholders.

ACI World has amped up its recovery guidance. In line with the updated ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) document (to which ACI contributed), ACI released the updated guidance on Airport Operations and COVID-19: Business Recovery. We intend to continue to update the document as the situation evolves. 

We also recently released the new ASQ 2021 Global Traveller Survey, revealing that travellers have developed a more considered and informed perception of flying during the recovery. 

The results highlighted the relevance of the ACI Airport Health Accreditation (AHA) programme, which helps airports align their health measures with global standards. The programme continued to grow in 2021 and now includes more than 500 airports of all sizes. 

ACI also released a new Policy Brief on the need to modernise global policy frameworks on airport charges. Key to a sustainable future will be to ensure the efficient use and funding of airport infrastructure as the industry recovers and grows. Airports must be able to set airport charges with a commercial focus to attract the necessary investment, and to signal whether users were willing to pay for these investments.

While there are still many unknowns and challenges on the road to a sustained long-term recovery, ACI remains more committed than ever to its mission as the voice of the world’s airports. It is both an honour and privilege to serve our members. 

As we ring in the new year, a crucial constant will be the importance of ACI’s collaboration with industry and other partners, as well as the support from regulators. We must all work towards building a sustainable global aviation ecosystem for the interest of the travelling public and the communities we serve around the world.

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