ROUTES 2013: Airports and airlines open for business at World Routes in US

The World Routes conference opened for business this week in Las Vegas, Nevada marking the first time the event has been held in the US. Early reports indicate that this year’s event, which brings airlines and airports together for what has been described as the “premier networking event” for the industry, will be a rousing success.
The event attracted representatives from 300 airlines and 750 airports with an estimated 2,800 people attending. Routes serves as somewhat of a matchmaking service, allowing airports to solicit the business of airlines in an arrangement that would prove beneficial to all parties.
The floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center looks like an international bazaar of sorts, with airports from smaller countries in Africa to the major players in Russia and China. A lot of representatives appeared colourful native garb. One of the main attractions was in the centre of the spacious hall, where tables were set up for one-on-one meetings between would-be business partners.
At the World Routes Strategy opening session, it became clear the despite many of the challenges facing the industry, delegates on a panel honed in on the positive, with little emphasis on the negative.
“This is the industry that oils the wheels of the global economy,” declared BBC World News presenter Aaron Heslehurst, who served as a moderator.
Dr Charles Schlumberger, lead air transport specialist for the transport division of the World Bank, said that people may question why he was there. The mission of the World Bank is to relieve poverty and one of the best ways to accomplish that is through economic development. He noted that worldwide, the industry promotes some 56 million jobs. “Combine aviation with tourism, it’s actually the biggest industry in the world,” he said. “Air transport – airlines and airports – are the ones who make it happen.”
To accommodate a forecast of a doubling of the industry by 2030, Schlumberger emphasised the need to support the needed infrastructure.
An effective way to do just that is for the airports to communicate on a regular basis what they do, what they strive for and how the airport spends its money in relationship to the customers, said Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World.
Georgio Callegari, deputy chief executive of Aeroflot, offered that airports are proof positive of their own success and remain a solid investment opportunity. “You haven’t seen any airports shut down,” he noted. “We are an industry that is very successful. We should be proud of what we achieve and deliver to the world.”
IATA senior VP Thomas Windmuller agreed, saying, “Why don’t we do a better job of selling our markets? We’re really good at talking to ourselves – but we’re not as good talking outside of the industry.”
“This industry doesn’t sing its praises loud enough,” Heslehurst concurred.
Sandra Arnoult, North America editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

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