WORLD ROUTES: Airports - Under Pressure!

Some of the world’s key airport operator players took part in an engaging debate at the 20th World Routes Development Forum Strategy Summit in Chicago on Sunday, Justin Burns writes for The HUB.

The panel discussion ‘Airports – under pressure’ at the World Routes Strategy Summit focused on the changing models being adopted to finance gateways.  Chicago department of aviation commissioner, Rosemarie Andolino, moderated the session, which focused on five areas that are putting pressure on the operation of airports.

A live delegate poll found government interference to be the main pressure, through regulation and taxes and development restriction, and following this was infrastructure, regulation permitting, lack of planning and costs to operate.

Panellist ACI World director general Angela Gittens, began by talking about the changing trends in airport financing, notably the increase in the privatisation of hubs and the move away from them being purely government owned.  As for what makes a successful airport, Gittens, told delegates: “The most successful airports are the most successfully financed, and those where investment is made in quality and customer satisfaction.”

In the view of Dr Sani Sener, the chief executive officer of TAV Airports, which operates 14 airports around the globe, public-private partnerships (PPPs) are now the most effective model.  He notes this is how all of TAV run gateways are financed, and says the chances of success if airports are just publically financed or private, is lower than if there is a combination of the two.  Some state involvement is beneficial, Sener, notes, due to the regulation needs of the aviation industry, while he thinks the development of PPPs to operate airports in the US is very important in the future.

TAV Airports has just established an alliance with Aeroports de Paris (ADP), and the French operator’s chief executive officer, Augustin de Romanet, hailed the partnership.  “We consider we must establish alliance like we have with TAV. This is important in the future,” he explains, as it gives them the opportunity to provide passengers with the best level of services possible.  De Romanet adds: “100 per cent public and 100 per cent private financed models are both bad solutions. I think running as purely public is quite hard," and gave his backing to the PPP model.

In his opinion it is tough to make a success of airports if they are 100% privately owned, as the operator suffers from a “lack of acceptance from the surroundings” in the area that it operates, and so affecting its development and opportunities.  Gateways are competing with each other he says, and competition is strong between them at present, and he says Paris CDG competes with other European hubs such as London Heathrow, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and Frankfurt Airport.

Moderator Rosmarie Andolino finished the discussion by explaining that US airports, which are virtually all federally owned, are now looking at the PPP operating model, and the US is likely to see them established in the future.