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Airlines And Airports Pull Together to Get Through Tough Times

Posted 20/10/2008 - Viewed 2851 time(s)

Kuala Lumpur, 14 October 2008

As many as 2,200 representatives from the global air transport industry converged in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia over the last three days for The 14th World Route Development Forum (Routes), the annual gathering of the world's air service development community. After possibly the worst year in airline history, the event was set against a mixed background - characterised by the world financial crisis and the hope that a rapidly dropping oil price will bring relief to the airline industry.

With over 450 airline decision makers and representatives from over 700 airports, the event remained the annual platform to discuss future market opportunities, despite the volatile climate affecting the industry. "Over the past decade, Routes has helped to build partnerships between airports and airlines," said Mike Howarth, Chairman of Routes. "During the last few months these partnerships have been tested, but the positive turnout at this year's event shows that they have remained strong - even in the tough times."

Delegates from airports with over four million passengers a year turned up in force, with 14 percent more representatives in attendance, including delegates from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, USA, SCL Terminal Aéreo Santiago, Chile, Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, China and Bandaranaike International Airport, Sri Lanka.

But not only the airports recognised the importance of route maintenance; more airlines than ever before wanted to meet airports they already serve in order to explore ways that these airports or their tourist authorities and regions can help them share the pain caused by the recent industry developments.

An increased number of Far Eastern carriers were present this year, including airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines - both new to the world event. Latin America was also well represented by airlines such as LAN Airlines and Copa Airlines.

Recognising the importance of a holistic approach to route development, numerous tourism authorities took a stand and promoted their destinations to the industry. Scotland sponsored the Saturday Reception. Other destinations represented were Norway, Sweden, Kwazulu-Natal, Tanzania, Venezuela and Malaysia.

It was the very first time that an Asian country played host to The World Route Development Forum. Howarth: "Kuala Lumpur has clearly been a good decision. While supporting and consolidating current route development activity, we still need to look forward to the next upturn and develop strategies and plans for the future. Asia is still a relatively buoyant market and there is a lot of room to focus on the positives in aviation, not only the negatives."

Dato' Seri Bashir Ahmad, Managing Director of Malaysia Airports said: "We hope we impressed the delegates in this first opportunity as Asian host and we hope that by doing so, more Asian countries will be given the chance to host Routes. I can say this for sure, Routes 2008 was more than just fruitful and productive meeting opportunities."

Besides the highly regarded Routes one-to-one meeting format, there were a number of innovative co-located events broadening the spectrum of the world's largest air transport gathering - some of which have become an essential element of Routes itself. While airline and airport CEOs gathered for the 2nd Routes Leaders Forum to discuss how to maintain a framework for sustainable growth in air transport, the 1st Annual Tourism and Air Service Development Summit (TAASS) focussed on the three-way relationship between national tourism organisations, airlines and airports and their involvement in air service development.

Further co-located events included the first Annual Meeting of the newly formed International Air Route Development Association (IARDA), The World Fleet Forum, the ACED conference - Airports as Catalysts for Economic Development - as well as the ICAO / World Bank Air Transport Development Forum.

RDG, the organiser of Routes, is now in preparations for the 2009 World Route Development Forum in Beijing, as well as their Routes Regional events that will mark the networking event's 15th anniversary. Further details on next year's hosts and forums can be found on the official website.