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View From The Top (Asia-Pacific Airports 1/2020)

  • 07 Apr 2020

New ACI Asia-Pacific Director General, Stefano Baronci, reflects on an eventful start to 2020, planning ahead, leadership changes at ACI and the impact of the coronavirus.


A  number of very different events, some known to me in advance and others coming completely out of the blue, have helped make my first 100 days as the new director general of ACI Asia-Pacific something of a rollercoaster ride! I knew, for example, that the region's growth rate has slowed to its lowest over the last five years. I also knew that a trade agreement between China and the United States was imminent and that the much publicised social unrest  in Hong Kong – my new home - was continuing. However, nobody could have anticipated the outbreak of a virus!


Despite the impact of the virus – and I will return to this subject later on - I was able to maintain the priority I had set for my first 100 days in the new job: getting to know our airport members, our board members and the team. In a short period of time, I visited eight countries and met with multiple airport members as well as policy makers, regulators and other key stakeholders. What struck me most was the diversity across the region yet at the same time a shared commitment to safety, security and delivering exceptional customer experience. 


I was inspired after meeting the board members. Some I was able to meet in person, others virtually. The Asia-Pacific Regional Board includes longstanding airport professionals and I am grateful for their support in guiding ACI Asia-Pacific. 


Strategic Plan


ACI Asia-Pacific operates under three-year strategic plans so I am devoting significant attention to the plan for the 2021- 2023 period. I will share more with you as the strategic plan gets finalized and approved by the board. Suffice it to say for now that an important element will be to elevate the profile of ACI Asia-Pacific and our members in the region and globally through strategic advocacy and communications efforts. The strategic plan will also address a painful challenge faced by members throughout the region: the capacity crunch. We will be looking at smarter slot allocation mechanisms, building new infrastructure and improving the cooperation with air traffic control organisations. 


ACI leadership changes


There will be a change in leadership at ACI World later this year. After 12 years leading ACI World, Ms. Angela Gittens is handing over the reins to Mr. Luis Felipe de Oliveira, an aviation leader with decades of experience in business development and strategic planning. On behalf of the whole team, we wish Angela all the best in her retirement. In ACI Latin America & Caribbean, Mr. Rafael Echevarne recently took on the position of Director General. 


The impact of COVID-19


Having spent my whole career in the aviation sector, I am no stranger to the types of crisis that can hit our industry. The challenge with a communicable disease is its unpredictability. At the start of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov), since renamed COVID-19, we feared the worst but hoped for the best. At the time of writing this article, the casualties had regrettably surpassed the death toll of the SARS outbreak in 2003. 


The challenge with a communicable disease is its unpredictability. 

Stefano Baronci

Director General, ACI Asia-Pacific


ACI Asia-Pacific was quick to rally around our members by providing guidelines for airport preparedness if a communicable disease breaks out and pointing to a handbook for emergency preparedness and contingency planning. I sincerely appreciate the willingness of our members to share additional measures implemented at airports around the region. Our team collated this information and shared it to the broader ACI Asia-Pacific member base. This kind of sharing of best practices is highly beneficial to our airport sector. 


The impact of COVD-19 on our industry is clearly visible through the decrease in connectivity through travel bans, schedule reductions and flight cancellations. The impact on passenger traffic was acute in the first quarter of this year with double-digit declines. The impact on the tourism sector has also been substantial. At the height of the SARS outbreak in May 2003, monthly RPKs of Asia-Pacific airlines were 35% lower than their pre-crisis levels. Overall in 2003, Asia-Pacific airlines lost 8% of annual RPKs and $6 billion of revenues. Time will tell if the impact will of COVID-19 will exceed that of SARS. 


As the Regional Office is located in Hong Kong, we took a number of precautionary measures to make sure our team members were safe. By and large, the team has been working from their home offices and quickly familiarized themselves with on-line collaborative tools. I’m pleased to say that our operations continued seamlessly despite these extraordinary circumstances. 


Regrettably this situation has impacted a number of ACI events, most importantly for our region, the 15th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference & Exhibition. I had, of course, hoped to meet many of you there, but, together with our host Kansai Airports, we made the difficult decision to move the event to September 15-17, 2020. I sincerely hope that you can make the new dates and, please, rest assured that the team will keep you appreaised on the latest developments regarding the 15th ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Conference & Exhibition through the bi-weekly newsletter and event emails. 


Final thoughts


The Asia-Pacific Airports magazine is published four times a year for you, our members. We aim to share relevant trends and innovations in our industry and provide a platform for our members to showcase the best of their airports. It is also a chance for us to update you about our activities. This is why I sat down with the magazine editor Joe Bates to share a little more about myself. You can read the Q&A article on page xx. 

The new decade is starting off with a big challenge for our industry. Please know you can count on us to be the voice of the region’s airports in this extraordinary time. 




Stefano Baronci Signature



©Aviation Media Ltd 2020

Hong Kong
Stefano BaronciACI Asia-Pacific
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