Breaking down the barriers between airlines and airports

Insight from the World Routes Strategy Summit in Chengdu, China.

Airlines and airports must work closer together to ensure future success for both. Speaking at a World Routes 2016 Strategy Summit panel session considering the state of the industry in Chengdu, China, Schiphol Group executive vice president and chief commercial officer Andre van den Berg said the two sectors remain massively out of sync when it comes to forward planning, despite their co-dependence.

He said airports find themselves planning new infrastructure as far as 15 years ahead while airlines are far more immediate in their thinking. “Airlines have a much shorter timespan so they have a different way of thinking,” van den Berg said. “We have to make decisions for the long term and it is quite difficult as things are changing so fast.”

He added a typical example of this was the changing trends among airlines over the need for fast transits at hub airports and what infrastructure is required to meet these demands. Van den Berg said: “We need to bring these business models together in order to solve these capacity issues. It appears to me that this industry is not able to change in a fast enough way. We really need more information to bring the airports and airlines together.”

Finnair chief commercial officer Juha Jarvinen said another issue that needs to be dealt with in Europe is the increase in hi-speed rail. He added not only do airlines need to understand the impact on their own businesses, but airports need to consider how they can offer connections to them for the benefit of all.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam added slots remain an issue, particularly in places like China and Europe while Heathrow and New York City offer limited opportunities too. He added: “What I cannot figure out to this day is why airlines cannot fly from point A to point B in a straight line. This is a huge cost to every airline as there is so much inefficiency.”

However, despite the many problems tackled in the panel discussion, speakers remained generally upbeat overall with all of them eyeing up future growth around the world. Bellew’s optimism was typical of the panel when he concluded: “The second half of the year looks tremendous for us. Here in China the opportunity looks enticing and we’re looking forward to expanding massively in the next couple of years.”

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