ACI Europe celebrated its 20th anniversary in Milan


MILAN, Italy (eTN) – With the theme, “A 20-year vision of the airports of 2030,” the three-day ACI Airport Conference, held for the first time in Milan, faced important subjects, including the future of European airports, investments to improve infrastuctures, the future of air travel, the sky liberalization, and Airport Carbon Accreditation.

“We must invest in improving infrastructure, focusing on four key areas: capacity, environment, connectivity, and security,” said Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, whose members – 440 airports in 46 European countries – run 90 percent of the commercial air traffic in Europe, serving nearly 1.5 billion passengers per year.

It is imperative for airports to look ahead and prepare to face a future that foresees a doubling of the number of passengers flying over the skies of Europe by 2030.

Today, airports are no longer employed by the airlines and must develop strategies for self financing – a practice that is accelerating. Airports become network managers and an engine of economic development, which must review rates and stimulate traffic.

In 2009, European airport traffic saw a loss of 100 million passengers, said Jankovec. The year 2010 saw a +5.2 percent growth in the first quarter. In April, the closure of airspace due to the volcanic cloud had a negative impact on recovery, so the estimates for the year 2010 have been revised downwards. The new expected increase is 3 percent for passengers and 30 percent for cargo. However, it should be kept in mind that air travel is going towards a future with two dimensions: one is the success of a low-cost model, and the other is the consolidation and merger of a growing number of airlines.

The president of the association, Ad Rutten, warned that during the peak of the crisis of 2009, European airports provided a substantial stimulus to the economy by investing 12 billion euros: “A contribution to society that today European governments should at least recognize.”

Environment Priority

The Airport Carbon Accreditation project promoted by ACI Europe aims to reduce the environmental impact of airports, leading to zero emissions of carbon dioxide. Thirty European airports have agreed to the project, including CDG and Orly in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan (Malpensa and Linate), Athens, and Dublin. The large number of players on the field and the complexity of the issue has unfortunately, until now, prevented a common date being set by which to achieve full sustainability. Airport operations represent about 5 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation sector, which in turn is responsible for 2 percent of global gas emissions.

The Case of Malpensa Airport

For SEA Milan Airports, the international stage of ACI Europe has provided an opportunity to illustrate its plan of action. “To cope with the crisis and the de-hubbing of Alitalia, we have adopted a series of counter measures that have proven successful,” said Giuseppe Bonomi, president of SEA.

The plan of action of SEA concentrates on the bilateral agreements between the EU member states and strives to speed up the bureaucratic procedures of liberalization. “These measures gave immediate results,” stated by Mr. Bonomi. In the last two years, Malpensa Airport was favored with the arrival of 33 new companies and 26 new destinations were introduced for a total of 1,036 new weekly frequencies. The 2009 budget rewarded their efforts with a 52 million net profit. The first quarter of 2010 recorded a +9.3 percent for passengers and +40 percent for cargo.

“We are not seeking for public funds. The government, however, should meet our request [for an] adjustment of airport fees, frozen for the last 10 years. They are 40 percent lower than the European average,” said Mr Bonomi. The future plan for Malpensa airport foresees an investment of 1.6 billion by the year 2020, using only market capital.

The president also indicated that the growth forecast of Malpensa Airport will be one-third larger then its current dimensions by 2030. Meanwhile, the area is being enriched with accommodation – this year will see the launch of a hotel-conference complex near the airport.

Last but not least, Bonomi outlined the plan for ongoing negotiations to create industrial synergies with Sacbe, the company that manages the airport of Bergamo and Aeroporti del Garda: Brescia and Verona.

Among the strengths of SEA is the goal it reached to reduce CO2 emissions in the airports of Milan. An award for this was presented to the president of SEA by Olivier Jankovec.

ACI Europe Awards

The conference included the sixth edition of the Best Airport Awards, as assigned by a jury of experts.

Recognition of achievements in areas such as services, retail, safety, and environmental awareness were won by Malta International Airport for the category “Airports of 1-5 million passengers,” Lyon Airports for the category “Airports of 5-10 million passengers,” Manchester Airport for the “Airports of 10-25 million passengers,” and Barcelona Airport for the “Airports beyond 25 million passengers.”