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AAAE’s Valcich Highlights Airport Consortium On Transformation

Editor’s Note: The Airport Consortium on Transformation is the outgrowth of another initiative from the American Association of Airport Executives. At the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, AAAE formed the Airport Consortium on Customer Trust to help airports win back the trust of the traveling public. Dozens of CEOs and other airport executives came together to research and test everything from touchless technologies to biometrics to terminal and checkpoint redesign, all with a focus on pandemic recovery.

Last fall, the program evolved to the Airport Consortium on Transformation, focused on enhancing operational efficiencies and reimagining the airport experience. Thirty five airports were active in the group as of press time. Jeremy Valcich, AAAE’s director of innovation programs, manages the group for the organization. Valcich recently spoke with AXN’s Carol Ward about the program’s goals.

Ward: With the recent evolution to the Airport Consortium on Transformation (ACT), what are the key goals going forward?

Valcich: Earlier this year we hosted what we called the airport CEO steering group. The 35 airports that are involved in our group – executive directors or somebody in the c-suite or one of their designees – gave us feedback on the biggest challenges at their airport and how the ACT can support airports in overcoming those challenges. We were able to create four pillars that are essentially our guide-stones going forward: advanced air mobility, airport electrification, airport digitization, and artificial intelligence.

As an industry consortium (in the previous iteration), we’ve done a lot of great work on white papers. My vision for the program is to take what we’re doing from a white paper perspective and really bring it to life. We can formulate an idea … then work with our corporate members for research and development, eventually getting to a point where we can actually deploy something at an airport. ACT can play a role in supporting the airport industry by coming together as industry partners to overcome a problem.

Ward: Are airports eager to be test markets for any new deployments?

Valcich: Absolutely. Our go-to point of contact for the airport is the airport director – we already have the executive buy-in already. One thing I’ll mention: there are many airports that when we start talking to them about ACT, they get a bit worried about procurement because it can be a bit bureaucratic at airports. What’s great about the program is that corporate members want to do these pilots to see what works and what doesn’t. Even if [the result is] a white paper where we just report the experience behind a pilot project at a given airport, I think that’s a win for the program. All the work that we do is free for the industry. It gets blasted out on our website. We do a press release on it. It goes out on our listserv. There’s a lot of opportunities for the corporate members to say, “Hey, if we tried something that was a success [in an airport], it has a really great chance of resonating throughout the industry.”

Ward: Within each of the four pillars you mentioned, do you have a specific direction or projects yet?

Valcich: We’ve had some initial calls and there have been some good ideas, but we don’t have anything pen to paper yet. Once we get to that point, I’m happy to share what the airports and the corporate members ultimately decide is the best path forward.