The Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) has a rich history as the oldest international airport owners and operators organization in the world. Formed in 1948 as the Airport Operators Council (AOC), ACI-NA is the largest of the five worldwide regions of Airports Council International (ACI) and is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018.
“Throughout history, great economies have been built on the most efficient transportation system of the day. Today it is air transportation – the safest, most efficient and most effective means of transportation ever devised.”
In January 1948, 19 U.S. commercial airports gathered in New York City to form the Airports Operators Council to address and solve mutual problems facing airports in the U.S. Airport challenges 70 years ago were surprisingly similar to those of today. Topics like airport operations and airport relations with the federal government and other segments of the industry topped the list.
The founding members included Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York-Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco and Washington.
Due to the evolving nature of international air transport, AOC recognized that airports did not have an international body. The airlines had International Air Transport Association (IATA), which formed in 1945. Government regulators had International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which formed in 1944.
Airports, both in the United States and worldwide, were effectively shut out of the debates at ICAO. Both ICAO and IATA began to adopt regulations for airports based on suggestions from national governments, the airlines and aircraft manufacturers. With no official airport voice in the ICAO process, it was decided that AOC must take steps to become part of the ICAO process. This signaled a change of thinking: the future of AOC would lie in its active, direct involvement in international political activities.
As this ICAO process was accelerating, the first AOC proposals recommending a name change began to better reflect its increasing international activities and goals. The name change to the Airport Operators Council International (AOCI) was effective May 1966.
Airport Associations Coordinating Council
To gain an observer seat in ICAO proceedings, Europe’s two airport organizations, Western European Airports Association (WEAA) and the International Civil Airports Association (ICAA) agreed to form an umbrella group with AOCI. On Dec. 6, 1970, the Airport Associations Coordinating Council (AACC) was formally established. It had the responsibility of coordinating and establishing unified positions in matters of interest to the international airport industry and communicating these positions to other international aviation organizations and governmental bodies. In 1971, the ICAO extended an invitation to AACC to officially represent the coordinated views of AOCI, WEAA and ICAA at ICAO meetings of interest to international airports.
Dissolution of WEAA
In 1986, WEAA dissolved. In 1989, AOCI and ICAA began to discuss how the international aspects of both associations could be successfully integrated by forming a new, single, worldwide organization which would be based in Geneva, where AACC was located, but which would replace AACC. The initial name approved for the new organization was Airports Association Council International, which began operating on October 2, 1991, also headquartered in Geneva. The following year the name of the association was changed to Airports Council International. AOCI became Airports Council International-North America, representing airports in the U.S., Canada and the Virgin Islands.
Regions Unite Under ACI
Now based in Montreal, Canada, ACI focuses primarily on international aviation issues while concurrently supporting the services and programs of the members in each of its five regions—Africa, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean, Asia-Pacific and North America. Global issues are addressed through the integrated ACI structure, giving each region a voice through its representation on the ACI Governing Board.