At its 18th Regional Assembly in Kobe, Japan, Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific, a trade association representing 622 airports from 47 countries/territories, has made a resolution to promote, restore and develop air connectivity in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East to ensure social and economic development as well as support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The resolution emphasises the importance of fully restoring and further developing air connectivity in the region, recognising the essential role that airports, driven by efficient and affordable air connectivity, can play in driving economic growth and social development.
Between 2022 and 2019, there has been a significant drop in the number of direct routes, flight frequencies and available seat capacity in Asia-Pacific as a result of the full-scale global COVID-19 transportation crisis. On the contrary, airports in the Middle East Region have recovered much faster, especially the large international airports.
Based on the preliminary findings of the ACI Asia-Pacific study on Airport Connectivity, conducted with the assistance of PwC, medium/large airports in Asia-Pacific region, more largely dependent on international traffic, faced a 42% reduction in the connectivity index by August 2022, compared to a 17% reduction reported at small airports which benefited from a more resilient domestic traffic. The Middle East airports, on the other hand, have recovered much faster, with a 19% increase in connectivity at large/medium airports and 5% increase at small airports.
Recognising the circumstances in which airports are operating, characterised by increased airfares, reduced airlines’ competition and aviation ecosystem workforce, and significant resources required to finance the necessary modernisation of infrastructure, the ACI Asia-Pacific Board encourages airport operators to open a new dialogue with national authorities and industry stakeholders to modernise the aviation sector.
Considering the fact that the aviation sector generates economic value and supports employment besides boosting trade, tourism, education and foreign investments, a holistic approach to create the fertile ground for the industry is required, including:
- Boosting connectivity by further liberalising international aviation markets.
- Given strong growth outlook and ensuing congestion, re-think the model of optimising the use of existing infrastructure (through slots allocation, modernised and more flexible charging system).
- Incentivise funding and financing of airport infrastructure with a reasonable return on investment.
- Urge governments to simplify and streamline visa process for inbound international travellers, where applicable
- Compliance with environmental and other sustainability objectives, including reducing CO2 emissions in compliance with the long-term global aspirational goal (LTAG) for international aviation of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Emmanuel Menanteau, President, ACI Asia-Pacific, said “Connectivity is a critical enabler for social and economic wealth. Restoring air connectivity in the Asia-Pacific and development of more routes in the Middle East is essential to support the recovery of their economies. This resolution reaffirms the commitment of the airport community of Asia-Pacific and the Middle East to work together with national and regional authorities in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner for the benefit of passengers as well as local communities served by the airports.”
Stefano Baronci, Director General of ACI Asia-Pacific said “Asia-Pacific is resurging after three complex years. Modernising the sector means critically assessing what can be done differently and better thorough a close dialogue between institutional and industry stakeholders. Following the model of the first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement between the EU and the ASEAN States and the recent Summit between India and the EU, we call upon States to implement a more liberalised market and strengthen cooperation and harmonisation on safety, security, environmental protection and ATM optimisation. This will require sense of leadership, significant investment but also building capacity and expertise. At all levels, ACI Asia-Pacific is keen to provide its contribution through this process of transformation.”