WORLD ROUTES: Airport Infrastructure Investment Not Meeting Demand

The lack of money invested in airport infrastructure in the US and Europe was bemoaned in session three of the World Routes Tourism Summit yesterday afternoon in Chicago, writes Justin Birns for The HUB.

The lack of money invested in airport infrastructure in the US and Europe was bemoaned in session three of the World Routes Tourism Summit this afternoon in Chicago.  A stellar panel of key decision makers at airports around the globe discussed how can infrastructure keep up with demand as traditional destinations face problems with capacity such as London, and New York.

Moderator Kevin Burke, president and CEO of ACI North America, says the US is falling behind due to the lack of money being pumped into developing gateways as Asia and the Middle East invests in state-of-the-art new airports, terminals, and other infrastructure.  “The biggest challenges in the US to the airports is getting air services and airport financing. In my view they are intricately linked,” he explains.

He asked the panel how this what elsewhere around the globe, and Guy Stephenson, CCO of London Gatwick, says the privately funded developments at the world’s busiest single runway gateway has resulted in batter people and better service, which has driven growth and quality of service, as the second busiest airport in London was previously a "basket case" before investment was made.

He also pushed the case for a second runway, which the Airports Commission will decide on next year, but remakred there is a lack of support for aviation from UK governments in building another runway, and added, “We are in a strong position to expand with a new runway.”

Much of the debate did though centre on the lack of private financing of airports in the US, and panellist Amit Rikhy, senior vice president from ADC&HAS Airports Worldwide feels they need to be privately funded.  “Airports need to be privately funded, there is under funding of airports in the US at the moment, and they are losing their competitiveness,” he explains.

Brazil is not somewhere where investment and runways are not being constructed and given the green light, and the country has seen massive airport investment as braced itself for the Fifa World Cup this year, and prepares to host the Olympics in 2016.  Panellist Aluizio Margarido, commercial director form Sao Paulo-Viracopos International Airport, told delegates of the new four-runway 25 square km airport being built in the city, which was sure to draw some envy.

The final debate was the vital role technology plays in developing infrastructure and its affects on the passenger experience was also highlighted by panellists.  According to Vernice Walkine, president and CEO of Nassau Airport Development Company in the Bahamas, technology implementation is “critical" and what matters most when new development projects take place. 

“We have lots of small families, so they need do not need to be waiting in queues, and one of the things we are going to implement is automated passport control kiosks and we are introducing this soon,” she explains.

Her view was echoed by Rikhy, who’s view is technology impacts everything at airports such as commercial revenue, operational costs, and the passenger experience, and allows more passengers to be processed.

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