ACI World Annual General Assembly: Right place, right time

Editor, Joe Bates, looks back at some of the many highlights of the recent ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East/ACI World Annual General Assembly, Conference and Exhibition in Riyadh.

With the worst days of the global pandemic fast becoming a distant memory for airports and global passenger numbers either already above or set to exceed 2019 levels this year, there was a strong sense of optimism about the future at May’s ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East/ACI World Annual General Assembly, Conference and Exhibition (#WAGA2024) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, the feeling that better days lay ahead, despite the ongoing geopolitical challenges facing the world, was evident from listening to more than 50 speakers and exchanging views with many of the delegates and 30 exhibitors from over 70 countries in attendance at the first ever WAGA held in the Kingdom.

Arguably, our hosts, Riyadh Airports Company, which has ambitious plans for the future development of King Khaled International Airport, and fellow Saudi Arabian companies MATARAT Holding and Riyadh Air – which outlined a bold tech-driven future – were among the most enthusiastic about what the future will hold.

Emmanuel Menanteau, president of ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East, regional director of VINCI Airports covering the USA, Europe and South East Asia, and board member of Cambodia Airports, certainly felt that in being in Riyadh, we were in “the right place, at the right time”.

The theme of the event was ‘The Global Race: How to Stand Out in a Competitive Airport Ecosystem’ and addressed a number of key issues facing the industry today, ranging from the global need for new airport infrastructure; the sustainability and decarbonisation challenge; embracing diversity and social inclusion; investing in future technologies; and staff recruitment.

The conference began with opening remarks from His Excellency Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA); Salvatore Sciacchitano, president of ICAO Council; and Ayman Aboabah, CEO of Riyadh Airports Company (RAC).

Al-Duailej called the event “a momentous occasion” for Saudi Arabia, revealing that GACA was committed to excellence, and in line with the country’s Vision 2030, the plan is for the Kingdom’s airports to serve more than 250 global destinations and be capable of handling in excess of 350 million passengers and 4.5 million tonnes of cargo by 2030.

“In the field of civil aviation, the modernisation of our airports isn’t a secondary aspiration, it is a fundamental pillar to success,” said Al-Duailej.

“By treating the airport sector as a thriving business entity in its own right, we are unlocking the potential to revolutionise operational efficiency, elevate the passenger experience, and fuel economic growth.”

RAC’s Aboabah welcomed the international attendees, commending his company’s efforts in advancing Saudi Arabia’s airport management system, which he noted positively impacts upon the global aviation sector.

He also announced that his company is working with different authorities to promote the reliance on clean energy sources, pointing out the progress currently being made at King Khalid International Airport.

ICAO’s Sciacchitano praised the organisation’s close relationship with ACI, ACI’s efforts to help aviation achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, and their shared common goals on safety and security. He also revealed that ICAO had designated 2024 the ‘Year of Facilitation’ to highlight the significance of air transport and its transformative potential.

Candace McGraw, chair of the ACI World Governing Board and CEO of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), and ACI Asia-Pacific’s Menanteau then took centre stage in a session called the Presidents’ Playbook.

Talking about the progress of the ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East region since last year’s WAGA in Barcelona in June 2023, Menanteau told delegates that it had been a big year for the region following the opening of APAC & MID’s new Middle East office in Riyadh.

He felt that both ACI and its member airports had to continue to adapt to a transforming industry, noting that ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East was the first region to be hit by the COVID pandemic, and the last to fully recover from it, with some airports still some way off 2019 traffic levels.

Between them it was suggested that enhancing the airport experience, taking customer engagement and understanding of passengers to the next level, easier surface access to airports, faster and more efficient journeys through terminals for all passengers, operational excellence and building smart infrastructure, were just some of the ways airports could stand out in today’s highly competitive ecosystem.

McGraw mentioned ACI World’s planned new Diversity & Social Inclusion at Airports study, noting that it is important to bring more people from all sections of the community into the workforce, while Menanteau admitted that before COVID, airports had never really factored in ‘health’ issues as a priority, and called plans to decarbonise aviation “the challenge of all time for the industry”.

In answer to what each would like to see happen between now and the next WAGA, McGraw said: “I am going to say continue to innnovate and don’t be afraid of failure.”

While Menanteau noted: “You hear a lot from us about the transition [to Net Zero emissions by 2050], so the important thing to say to our members is don’t give up, whether you are part of a large airport group or an individual airport, big or small, we have to transition together to meet the decarbonisation challenge.”

State of the Industry addresses followed from Stefano Baronci, director general of ACI Asia-Pacific and Middle East region, and Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general and CEO of ACI World.

Never one to play things down, Baronci opened by echoing the words of 19th Century French diplomat, Alex de Tocqueville and claiming that current critical issues like climate change, geopolitical tensions, technological evolution and the huge growth potential of Asia meant that “we are sleeping on a volcano”.

ACI World director general and CEO, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, used his time on the podium to talk about global traffic trends, the net zero challenge, IT investment and his love for the industry, which he labelled “dyamic and volatile” and one that brought new challenges and opportunities every day.

Reflecting on where the industry is today, de Oliveira, enthused: “Our airports always come through, and look where we are now. We are growing once again, and growing quickly, making a positive contribution to the social and economic progress of the world.”

He noted that the world’s airports handled 8.5 billion passengers in 2023, just 6% down on pre-COVID levels, and that 2019’s record levels would be equalled or bettered this year as the latest ACI data showed that global traffic had 100% recovered in May.

Going into more detail about 2023, de Oliveira stated that domestic traffic increased by 20% and international passenger numbers by 36.5% on 2022. Dubai International Airport (DXB) maintained its status as the world’s busiest airport, handling 87 million passengers, while Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (ATL) retained its title as the world’s busiest gateway, handling 104.6 million passengers in 2023.

“We are seeing a shift in international travel,” he told the audience. “Changing demographics and income levels means that aviation markets are flying away from traditional paradigms to established markets.

“Long-term, advanced economies are giving way to emerging and developing economies. These countries are urbanising, their populations are increasing and they are showing a willingness to use a more efficient way of travel – aviation. This will make our industry more robust and going forward we see positive trends for the foreseeable future.”

As a result of the upturn in traffic, ACI World expects almost 10 billion passengers to pass through the world’s airports this year, 20 billion by 2044, and 25 billion by 2052 – two and a half times the current numbers.

Like Baronci before him, de Oliveira admitted that being able to accommodate such growth won’t be easy, especially as it is estimated that around $2.4 trillion will have to be spent on airport capital improvement programmes by 2040.

However, he believed that the industry’s commitment to robust ESG practices, sustainable growth, decarbonsation, intermodality and continued investment in transformative new technology – airports will invest $6.8 billion on IT this year – were the key building blocks that would ultimately see it rise to the challenge.

Concluding, de Oliveira said: “The future will be different, but we believe it will be positive for us. Growth and new business models alone are not enough. Sustainability, both environmentally and financially is a must.

“The industry’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 will be our driving force and guiding light for all future behaviours.”

The conference spotlight then shone firmly on the Middle East region with moderator, Armandeep Bhangu, conducting on-stage interviews with Riyadh Air CEO, Tony Douglas, and Dubai Airports’ CEO, Paul Griffiths.

In the first session called ‘The next Saudi Superstar: Riyadh Air’, the airline’s charismatic CEO and former Etihad, Heathrow, and Abu Dhabi Airports boss Douglas essentially outlined the ambitious development plans for Saudi Arabia’s second national flag carrier.

“The brand of the new airline will be Riyadh, supported by three key pillars,” said Douglas. “We will be a digital native, have an absolutely obsessional attention to detail on the guest experience, and want to be acknowledged as an environmental sustainability thought leader.”

The ultimate goal for the airline, revealed Douglas, is for Saudia to concentrate on its base in Jeddah and for Riyadh Air to become the global airline for Riyadh, serving 100 destinations by 2030.

If all goes to plan it will start certification flying in September and launch operations in the summer of 2025.

Ever upbeat and engaging Dubai Airports CEO, Paul Griffiths, continued the focus on the Middle East when he told delegates more about the success of Dubai International Airport (DXB), plans to bring forward the development of Al Maktoum International Airport, also known as Dubai World Central (DWC), and the recent flash floods in Dubai that halted operations at the world’s busiest airport.

Talking about rising demand, Griffiths said that soaring traffic had forced Dubai Airports to update its 2024 traffic projections for DXB four times already this year, and it now expects around 91 million passengers to pass through the UAE hub by the end of the year.

“If we continue to grow at this rate, we will hit the magic 100 million passenger mark by 2027, so these are exciting times,” enthused Griffiths.

In fact, such is the upward trajectory of traffic that he revealed that in line with the one objective given to him to never constrain Dubai’s aviation growth when he first joined Dubai Airports back in 2007, the company has decided to bring forward the next phase of the development of DWC by nearly a decade.

“The way of not constraining growth is to continually innovate and find new ways of increasing not just the capacity of the airport, but the quality of the customer service, because delighting the customer is absolutely at the forefront of what we do,” he commented.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create not just a new airport, but a totally new way of thinking about airport design.”

As a result, instead of following today’s typical design pattern for an airport, DWC will boast a number of different terminals designed to recall the traditional Bedouin tents of the Arabian Peninsula.

Griffiths believes that each should be viewed “as a number of small, intimate airports joined together for the scale we need, but retaining the intimacy that customers want”.

At full build out, DWC will be seven or eight times bigger than DXB and be capable of handling 260 million passengers annually.

Next up during a busy morning was a presentation from Airport Authority Hong Kong’s deputy director for airport operations, Chapman Fong, about the next phase of Hong Kong International Airport’s transition from “a city airport to an airport city”

The much anticipated airport leaders panel followed, the bosses in the hot-seat this year being Greater Toronto Airports Authority’s CEO, Deborah Flint; iGA Istanbul Airport’s CEO, Selahattin Bilgen; Oman Airports’ CEO, Sheikh Aimen Al Hosni; and Lima Airport Partners CEO, Juan Jose Salmon Balestra.

Between them they explored critical topics such as the state and future of airport infrastructure, slot allocation, seamless travel, customer service, and the role of technology and innovation in enhancing passenger experiences.

Balestra stated that there was great growth potential at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM), particularly as so few South Americans fly today compared to the US and Europe. He noted that the airport worked closely with the government and other agencies to promote tourism to Peru.

In terms of new infrastructure, he revealed that the airport will become more competitive when it opens a new 230,000 square metre terminal later this year that will raise LIM’s capacity to 40mppa. It is currently handling around 23 million.

In addition an airport city with its own Free Trade Zone is being created around the airport which was expected to become a destination in its own right that boosts traffic and the airport’s economic impact.

Al Hosni believed that concentrating on what customers want was the key to being a better airport, citing the work done to turnaround Muscat International Airport’s ASQ ratings and the introduction of a second ground handler as examples of listening to its passengers and airline customers and increasing its competitiveness.

He said that Oman Airports spends between $20 million and $30 million a year on OPEX/CAPEX projects, which includes investment in new technology to boost operational efficiency and passenger satisfaction levels.

Bilgen acknowledged that Turkish Airlines and its vast network is driving growth in Istanbul, but was quick to point out that another 105 airlines currently serve IST –a sizeable increase on the 61 that flew to the hub when it opened in April 2019.

He attributed the almost doubling of its airline customers to its efforts to make the airport more attractive, operationally efficient – especially through the use of new technology – and easy to use for other airlines as well as Turkey’s national flag carrier.

Ending on regulation, and what they’d like to see change, Lima’s Balestra said he would like to see airports have a greater say in how slots are allocated to make it easier to attract new airlines to compete against dominant carrier, LATAM, and make better use of the airfield.

While GTAA’s Flint said: “I am very positive about the Canadian aviation model and the regulatory construct that exists today. I certainly support further air liberalisation, however, as well as the work ACI World is doing to make the slot regime more efficient and give airports more of a participatory role role in how they are allocated.

“That said, if there was one area where I think that there could be a change to the regulatory regime, it would be about ensuring that we can be unhindered in adapting to today and tomorrow’s environment.

“The lack of harmonisation across airports in the system I find particularly acute in Canada, where our screening methodologies lag behind some of the G7 countries. More importantly, as we propose to make multi-billion dollar investments in creating the terminals and airports of the future, there is significant more cost and opportunity at risk. So, I encourage our governments to work closely with the air transport industry on the transitions that we need to make today, getting the right level of risk and harmonising more fulsomely across the sector to enable an amazing digital and wholly-connected transformation of the industry.”

It was then time to briefly turn the spotlight onto retail and F&B activities when The Moodie-Davitt Report’s founder and chairman, Martin Moodie, interviewed Xavier Rossinyol, the CEO of Avolta, formed by the merger of Dufry with Autogrill.

A hectic first half day closed with a debate entitled, ‘Economic Impacts of Air Transport Liberalisation: Reform and Policy’ involving Serkan Kaptan, CEO of TAV Airports; Lorie Argus, CEO of Australia Pacific Airports Corporation; Kashif Khalid, IATA’s regional director for the Middle East and Africa; and Majid Khan, CEO of the Saudi Airport Connectivity Program, formed to boost air connectivity and tourism across the Kingdom.

Introducing the topic, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers moderators Simon Booker and Edward Clayton suggested that in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East region, the UAE and Singapore had the most liberal air transport regimes.

With the exception of some Think Tank Stage presentations by companies that included Avolta, Idemia, Plaza Premium Group and SITA, the main conference sessions of the day were over, leaving the afternoon free for ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East’s Regional Assembly and ACI World Annual General Assembly.

Both were followed by awards ceremonies for ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme and ACI APAC & MID’s Green Airports Recognition programme.

A highly eventful first day ended with a Gala Dinner at the KAFD Conference Centre in downtown Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District where the venue, entertainment and food made a huge impression on all those lucky enough to attend.

Day two of the conference sessions opened with a tourism and aviation driven debate, appropriately entitled ‘Tourism and Aviation – A Symbiotic Relationship’ moderated by PA Consulting’s global aviation lead, Kata Cserep.

Arguably, the key take aways from this one were that airports should prioritise destination marketing; collaboration between airports and the tourism sector is essential: and simplifying the visa process is crucial for aviation and tourism.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia is almost the perfect example of what can happen when a country makes getting a visa easier as over 100 million tourists visited the Kingdom Saudi Arabia last year. The country’s new found focus on tourism has also proved the catalyst for new developments like the recently opened Red Sea International Airport.

Speaking about what visitors can expect from Red Sea International Airport, its chief commercial officer, Michael White, enthused: “The general strategy behind the airport is the development of an eco-conscious luxury tourist destination that will offer and complement the already impressive portfolio of attractions in Saudi Arabia.”

Powered solely by sunlight courtesy of more than 760,000 solar panels, the airport, which handled its first flight in September last year, is equipped with a single terminal, runway and two hotels.

Mass tourism, however, is not on the agenda as White repeated that it will handle a maximum of one million passengers per annum due to environmental commitments.

Ioanna Papadopoulou, director of communications and marketing at Athens International Airport, then explained how the airport changed its strategy and became part of a larger destination marketing and management organisation that included the city of Athens, Attica region where the city is located, the Greek National Tourism Organization, Greek government and other aviation and tourism stakeholders to win back tourists after the Greek economic crisis of 2010-2013.

And the strategy ensured that it was well positioned to win back tourists again after the COVID pandemic, with Athens International Airport handling 10% more passengers last year than its previous record set in 2019.

“The goal was to promote Athens by restoring its profile and marketing it as a city break, and this is exactly what we did as between 2014 and 2019 there was a 104% increase in traffic and a 140% rise in foreign national arrivals,” enthused Papadopoulou.

Also in the hotseat for this one were Athanasios Titonis, CEO of Mactan Cebu International Airport in the Philippines, and Ibrahim Shareef Mohamed, CEO and managing director of Maldives Airports Company.

Delegates then had chance to learn a little more about MATARAT Holding and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s plans to transform its airport system courtesy of presentations by Moulham Zahabi, the company’s director of airport master planning, and IATA principal, Jurgen Renner.

Strategic holding company MATARAT owns and operates 27 airports spread across 2.2 million square kilometres of land in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Its goal is to ensure that they have enough capacity to handle the expected surge and growth in air travel over the next 25 to 30 years. This huge task is likely to lead to the country’s airport infrastructure tripling in size and capacity over this period.

Sacha Zackariya, the CEO and founder of Prosegur ChangeGroup followed with a presentation about ‘Growing Airport Revenues with Bureau de Change, Tax Refund & ATMs’.

Next up was a panel discussion and about mitigation and resilience to climate change followed by a SAF update from Boeing as the focus switched to the sustainable development of the world’s airports/aviation industry.

On the panel in the session entitled ‘Sustainability as a Game Changer: How Climate Action Drives Business Competitiveness’ was Airports Company South Africa’s CEO, Mpumi Mpofu; Airport Authority Hong Kong’s general manager for sustainability, Peter Lee; and Queenstown Airport Corporation’s general manager for sustainability and corporate affairs, Sara Irvine.

ACSA’s Mpofu spoke about the company’s pioneering Airport Carbon Accreditation efforts in Africa, with four airports achieving Level 2 and advancing to Level 3, as well as the bold ambition for all of its airports to be 100% energy efficient by 2040 so that they no longer require electricity from the national grid.

She also revealed that ACSA is hoping that its airports can become self sufficient for water, and stated that one of the ways it was looking at doing this was by a new process that involved producing water from moisture in the air!

Irvine, who earlier in the conference collected a Green Airports Recognition Award from ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East for Queenstown’s biodiversity project to restore wetlands underneath the gateway’s flightpath, said that the airport’s sustainability efforts were effectively being driven internally by staff at the community owned airport as they had a vested interest in protecting the spectacular setting they all lived in.

While Lee, who also picked up a similar award at the event for AAHK’s marine ecology and fisheries enhancement measures, told delegates that the airport had provided HK$400 million in funding for third party sustainability projects in addition to its own efforts to protect the ecosystem and operate the world’s greenest airport.

He noted that demonstrating the airport’s green credentials and publishing an annual Sustainability Report also had a financial benefit for Hong Kong International Airport through its access to more favourable ‘green financing’ and reduced energy costs.

The debate was followed by a presentation from Boeing’s regional director for the Middle East and Europe, Steven Gillard, about the development of SAF and other renewable fuels necessary to allow the industry to meet its net zero goals.

The emotive topic of climate change was followed by debate on cargo, which is often vital to the bottom line for airports, but an issue that seldom musters much enthusiasm among airport executives.

Luckily this apathy for cargo wasn’t shared by the panel, and particularly by Glyn Hughes, the director general of the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), who came out with a number of almost mind boggling figures about the economic and social importance of air cargo to airports and the world’s population during the debate entitled ‘Unleashing the Potential of Air Cargo’.

“The commercial air cargo industry has actually been around longer than the commercial passenger industry,” Hughes reminded delegates.

“The UN World Tourism Organisation recently released its 2023 report which showed that the total value for tourism last year was $1.4 trillion, which is a phenomenal number. If we consider that air accounts for around two-thirds of that, that is a $1 trillion contribution to the global economy. Air cargo’s value to the global economy is $8 trillion.

“Air cargo is not just there for humanitarian aid like during the pandemic, it is about economic prosperity, supporting the growth and prosperity of developing nations, and supporting our way of life as we move towards a more consumer and homebased society.”

He used the recent celebration of Mother’s Day in 90 countries across the world as another example of the impact of air cargo on the world, revealing that on that one day 400 million homes around the world received flowers flown by air from four countries – Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Agreeing with Hughes about the importance of cargo, Changi Airport Group’s executive vice president for air hub and cargo development, Ching Kiat Lim, noted that globally, air cargo transports approximately 1% of trade volume, which accounts for 35% when measured in value.

With regards to Singapore Changi Airport, Lim said that going forward the airport would be focusing its efforts on developing “key new freighter links” to destinations such as India and Saudi Arabia.

In Singapore, air cargo constitutes 40% of Singapore’s non-oil trades by value, and up to 70%-80% when it comes to high-value verticals such as biomedical and semiconductors.

Groupe ADP’s director of air cargo and asset management for global airport operator, Youri Busaan, added that airports are the gateway to trade as well as passengers and tourism with cargo operators using increasingly specialised facilities and equipment.

Kansai Airports’ chief commercial officer for aero, Francois Southarewesky, said that he expected Osaka’s Kansai and Itami airports to handle some 850,000 tonnes of cargo this year, and that digitalisation was “clearly the next big step for the cargo industry”, particularly in Japan where truck drivers still need to get documents physically stamped.

Afnan Al-Haboudal, general manager of Special Economic Zones for GACA, told delegates that there is a very clear roadmap in place to ensure that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is equipped to handling up to 4.5 million tonnes of air cargo by 2030.

The plan includes increasing the Kingdom’s overall cargo capacity through enhancing existing facilities, building new state-of-the-art infrastructure and the creation of Special Economic Zones.

The morning ended with a lively discussion about ‘Innovation in Passenger Processes: What Will Change in The Future’ involving Aeroporti de Roma’s CEO, Marco Troncone; PortsToronto CEO, Roelof-Jan Steenstra; Dubai Airport’s director of sustainability, innovation and partnerships, Sven Deckers; and SITA MEA’s vice president for business development, Adonis Succar.

Next on stage was ACI World’s senior director of data and analytics, Diedrick Meijerink, who told delegates a little more about the association’s new iHub initiative.

Two one-on-one chats followed. The first about the ‘Road to Net Zero’ involved Christchurch International Airport’s sustainability transition leader, Claire Waghorn, talking to PA Consulting’s Cserep; while the second saw IPP Travel Retail’s CEO, Philip Nguyen, talk with The Moodie Davitt Report’s Moodie about Vietnam’s booming aviation and tourism sectors.

Discussing Christchurch International Airport’s green credentials and sustainability leadership, Waghorn reminded the audience that the New Zealand gateway began measuring its carbon emissions back in 2006, joined ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme in 2017 and became one of the first gateways in the world to achieve the new Level 5 status in the programme in late 2023.

The penultimate panel discussion of the conference was called ‘Staff of Future: Changing Reality’ and addressed the challenges of hiring new staff and the ways in which airports might have to change their recruitment strategies and even job requirements – specifically building more flexibility into roles and potentially time spent at the airport – to attract the workforce of tomorrow.

On the panel were Changi Airport Group’s recruitment strategy, executive vice president, corporate, people and culture, Justina Tan; Riyadh Airports Company’s chief human capital officer, Abdulmajeed Alqusaibi; Fabio Gamba, director general of the Airport Services Association; and Nahar Aljahani, vice president of talent acquisition for Riyadh Air.

The finishing line for the conference was now fast approaching, just leaving time for a cyber security presentation from ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East’s Young Executive of the Year Award winner, Bengaluru International Airport’s Manoj Kumar; and review of what 2024 possibly holds for Asia-Pacific Aviation from OAG’s head of Asia, Mayur Patel; before a final panel on ‘Customer Experience and Changing Passenger Expectations’.

Addressing the ever evolving needs of passengers in the final panel, in particular the need for a more personalised airport experience, Armando Brunini, CEO of Milan airport operator, SEA, and president of ACI EUROPE, admitted that his company had different strategies for the city’s Linate and Malpensa airports due to the traffic they handle and inability to expand at the infrastructure constrained Linate.

He described the commercial offerings at Malpensa as being like a ‘department store’ to appeal to all tastes and those at Linate as ‘boutique’ for its business traveller and frequent flyer customers, with the Malpensa experience being further tailored towards passengers depending on their flights – international long-haul, Schengen or non-Schengen short-haul and Low Cost Carrier travel.

Replying to how MATARAT is fine-tuning its customer service strategy to meet Saudi Arabia’s evolving passenger personas, its general manager of customer experience, Yara Wehbe, said that it had developed a new overarching customer experience strategy that complemented “the local flavour of each region” across the country.

“To make it simple, if you ask me what I personally think is the most important passenger persona, I would say a mother and infant child travelling. If you accommodate her, you kind of hit the sweet spot for all others,” commented Wehbe.

Addressing concerns about aviation’s impact on the environment, Hermes Airports CEO, Eleni Kaloyirou, said: “What we need to remind our passengers is that we are doing everything in our power to decarbonise and reduce our impact on the environment, but they should continue travelling because travelling has so much to offer socially and economically to local and global communities.”

She explained how the operator of Larnaka and Paphos airports in Cyprus had reduced its energy consumption by 30% over the last few years, and last year installed solar plants at its airports that currently produced 28% of their electrical requirements. Next on the agenda was the installation of LED lighting on the airfield, the introduction of electric powered GPUs and enhanced waste management recycling.

Airports of Thailand (AoT) president, Kerati Kijmanawat, also reeled off a list of impressive sustainability achievements across his airport network and outlined some big future ambitions.

These include solar energy providing 100% of the daytime electricity requirements of its terminals within three years; replacing all diesel powered service vehicles at its airports in the same timescale; encouraging taxi drivers to switch to alternative fuelled vehicles; becoming totally self sufficient for water; producing energy from waste: and supporting the production of SAF in Thailand that could be sold to the global market.

AoT’s Kijmanawat said: “Meeting our ESG goals is a very important pillar of our development. We are a listed company, so first, and foremost, we are representing our stakeholders and investors, and as you know, when people choose to invest, they want to invest in a company that is socially and environmentally responsible.”

That just left time for ACI World’s senior vice president for programmes and commercial services, Antoine Rostworowski, to offer some reflections on a “fabulous event” and thank Riyadh Airports Company for being such a kind and gracious host.

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