’60 Minutes’ Correspondent Scott Pelley: Aviation is a Miracle

During the 2022 ACI-NA Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Alessio Olivetti caught up with Scott Pelley, the 60 Minutes correspondent and 2022 annual conference keynote, who shared his experience as tireless traveler and long-time journalist.

 

AO: You travel all around the world. It’s safe to say you’re a frequent traveler. What’s the most memorable airport experience have you ever had?

SP: My most memorable experience would have been at the very beginning of COVID, when thousands of people in the United States were dying every day.

I was covering COVID, and I was flying through Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. I got off the plane and I was the only person in the terminal. Everything was closed. There were Texas State troopers clearing every plane and taking down the contact information for every passenger who came off.

I could hear the soles of my shoes clacketing on the floor. I was literally by myself walking through Houston Intercontinental, which I came through many times surrounded by tens of thousands of people in the terminal.

It was just such a shocking, remarkable experience to understand better in an airport than anywhere else the effects the COVID was having and would continue to have on the national economy. If Houston Intercontinental is empty of people, the economy has stopped, you can tell.

 

AO: You wanted to become an astronaut when you were a child. The U.S. has been the cradle of the aerospace industry for a century. Why are people fascinated in stories about aviation and lately about space tourism?

SP: People are still fascinated about the courage required to leave the Earth and fly beyond the atmosphere. Even though we have been watching that happen in the United States since 1957, the year I was born by the way, people are still fascinated about the images coming back from space, our astronauts on the International Space Station for example. And now in this all-new world of private companies launching people in space we are beginning to imagine, ‘Hey, it could be me, I could go too!’

In terms of aviation, there is just something about flying. I should be the most jaded airline passenger at all times. I’m a multi-million miler on many different airlines, but I’m still thrilled when I get on a plane and it leaves the ground. It never gets old.

I was on the A380 the other day, which is the size of an apartment building. The engineering involved in building something like an A380 or a 747-8 is a miracle, getting that thing off the ground almost effortlessly. Engineering is far beyond me, but I have so much respect for it.

There is another thing about aviation. People complain insensitively about their flight being delayed, canceled, or their luggage being lost. I get all of that, it’s very frustrating.

But I would argue that aviation today is a miracle. You can literally be anywhere on this Earth in 24 hours. Imagine such a thing.

I’m amazed at the way the airline industry runs all around the world with thousands of operations every day, and virtually accident-free. It’s one of the greatest achievements of man.

 

AO: What’s your favorite interview if you have one?

SP: Now I have a new favorite interview and that’s the one I did in April with Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

I’ve never met a leader of a country who has impressed me more. The courage that he took to stay in Kyiv when the Russians were coming at him in three different directions. And when he walked outside into the courtyard and filmed a video message on his phone.

That moment galvanized the country to resist. It was on the knife’s edge of collapsing until he walked out and said, ‘We’re not going anywhere, we’re all staying here.’

Just an incredibly courageous and impressive man who forced the Russians to retreat from Kyiv and from Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv. He has punched way above his weight leading his people so courageously.

At the end of the interview, I said ‘Mr. President, we wish you all the luck in the world.’ He broke into English saying, ‘Half of it, I think we need half of it.’

A man with 44 million people on his shoulders and he is still having a sense of humor.

Airports Invest in Efforts to Strengthen Airport Industry Workforce

Like so many other industries in our economy, airports have not been immune to the workforce challenges as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the booming summer travel season we find ourselves in today.

For airports, it’s a two-fold challenge. Directly, airports are working to ensure they have the right teams in place to manage airport operations and strategic planning.  Indirectly, airports are also seeing labor challenges among their business partners.

Labor challenges, particularly among highly skilled trades and technical roles, remain for airports.  As airports continue their capital improvement programs and deploy innovative technologies to improve the passenger experience, they are continuing to feel the crunch.  Airports have also experienced widespread retirements and people exiting the industry after two very difficult years.

“Our industry is constantly changing — especially in light of the pandemic — and it’s important that we continue to look to the future to identify both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “One of the most critical areas that will help shape and grow the airport industry is its workforce — the individuals who keep passengers safe, maintain facilities, and improve the airport experience for everyone who passes through them.

Earlier this year, ACI-NA released a report on factors that will shape the future of the airport workforce. The report identifies key skills that will be required of employees and most industry occupations in the future and provides high-level strategies to address and collectively plan for future workforce challenges.

By outlining key areas in which airports and managers should focus their attention and resources, as well as strategies to meet evolving needs, we can ensure that we are doing everything we can to continue improving the future of our industry and its workforce.

Labor is not just an airport challenge.  Everyone from the airlines to concessionaires and rental car companies to government agencies like TSA find themselves needing talent to keep pace with demand. Airports remain committed to working with their tenants and business partners that operate at the airport to address their own workforce challenges in a collaborative effort to provide a top-notch guest experience for everyone passing through their terminals.

Airports are taking a holistic approach and working closely with their partners to develop new pipelines for talent.  Whether partnering with local trade schools, collaborating with governments and community organizations, or hosting career fairs, airports are bringing together stakeholders to solve the labor challenge together.

In recent years, many airports like Los Angeles International Airport, JFK International Airport, and the Houston Airport System have looked to Edge4Vets, an organization that helps military veterans translate their military skills into civilian roles at airports, to facilitate connections among veterans’ organizations in local communities.  Charlotte Douglas International Airport will join the growing number of airports involved with Edge4Vets later this year. Edge4Vets continues to be a leading organization in providing talent solutions for airports and their partners by leveraging the strengths and skills of military veterans.

“Edge4Vets helps train military service personnel – including veterans, National Guard, transitioning active duty and spouses – for jobs that can lead to aviation careers and give airport HR recruiters access to talent-rich employees who can bring strong values and unique skills to their workforce that have been depleted by the COVID pandemic,” said Edge4Vets founder and Director of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University, Tom Murphy.

For more information about Edge4Vets, visit edge4vets.org. To join the network of ACI-NA airports participating in the national expansion, contact Nancy Zimini or Tom Murphy.

Airports Council Establishes DEI Working Group to Drive Association Efforts

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), the trade association representing commercial service airports in the United States and Canada, today announced the formation of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group.  Comprised of professionals and DEI experts from across the organization, ACI-NA’s DEI Working Group will help propel the association’s work in this important area moving forward.

“Our industry has a strong record of success in creating opportunities,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke.  “Our industry is a driver of change because of our strong commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives and we look forward to the input from our new working group to further advance our industry’s leadership.”

Despite the pandemic that nearly crippled the North American airport industry, airports have not neglected their social responsibility priorities, especially in the areas of DEI.

The North American airport industry has a strong reputation of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, and strengthening partnerships with their local communities.  But, this work has not been easy.  In fact, it is quite complex.  That’s why it is necessary to continue learning and listening about the work being done in this area.

The DEI Working Group will take a deep dive into our industry’s commitments to DEI issues and assist the association in developing a clear and actionable approach to one of the most important leading issues of our time.  The working group will help chart a path forward on how ACI-NA as an organization can contribute.

The high caliber of participants on the working group bring vast perspectives and represent every facet of the North American airport industry.  The group will be chaired by Tanisha Lewis, Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.  Debi Marshall, Director of Human Resources, Syracuse Regional Airport Authority, will serve as the vice chair. Danette Bewley, President and CEO of the Tucson Airport Authority will serve as the liaison to the ACI-NA Board of Directors.  Solomon Wong, President and CEO of InterVISTAS Consulting, will serve as the associates representative on the working group.

Participants on the ACI-NA DEI Working Group also include:

Barbara Alexander
Shared Prosperity Program Specialist
Port of Portland

Molara  Awosedo
Director, DEI
Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Michelle Brega
Senior Director, External Affairs
San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

Regina Carson
Human Resources Manager
Peninsula Airport Commission

Thiané Carter
Small Business Program Officer
Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority

Loriann Chace
Senior Aviation Economic Develop Specialist
Sacramento International Airport

Christy Cheever
Paine Field / Snohomish County Airport
Airport Administration in Human Resources

Mike Christie    
Vice President, Human Resources
Halifax International Airport Authority

Patti Colbry
Human Resources Director
Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust

Kim dela Torre
Manager of Talent/People Operations
Tucson Airport Authority

Elise Durham
Assistant General Manager, Business Diversity
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Meg Gibson 
Manager, Learning & Professional Development
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport

Lorri Graybeal
Human Resources Manager
Roanoke Regional Airport

Louis Gutierrez  
Chief, Human Capital & Equity Officer
Los Angeles World Airports

Teika Jefferson
DEI, Manager
Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission

Maria Kim 
CFO
Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Andrew Martz 
Assistant Director, Communications & Development
Eugene Airport

Elita McMillon
Assistant General Counsel
Tampa International Airport

Gina Stough
Vice President, Human Resources
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

Elise Thomas
Environmental Manager
Fairbanks International Airport

Jonanthan Todd
Manager, Workforce Development
Philadelphia International Airport

Guadalupe Torres
Community Investment Manager
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Jayme Verish  
Assistant Airport Director, Operations & Maintenance
Idaho Falls Regional Airport

Karen Zygun      
Director, Human Resources
Vancouver Airport Authority

Celebrating April as U.S. Airport Professional Appreciation Month

 

As U.S. Airport Professional Appreciation Month comes to a close, we have been so excited to celebrate the airport industry professionals who are demonstrating their commitment to industry excellence and professional development.  We recently caught up with Sylvia A. Palmer, Vice President, Operations and Regulatory Affairs, at the Airport Consultants Council to learn about her experience in the program.  Sylvia recently completed her USAP studies and is now an accredited U.S. Airport Professional.  She is one of eleven students to be celebrated this first U.S. Airport Professional Appreciation Month!

ACI-NA: Why did you decide to enroll in USAP?

SP: In 2020, as the aviation industry was undergoing massive disruption, I desired a resource that would provide a comprehensive overview of the entire U.S. airport system as we knew it, and the all-encompassing evolution occurring as a result of the pandemic’s wide-reaching impact on the aviation industry.

ACI-NA: How is USAP making you a better airport industry professional?

SP: The USAP program’s detailed and well-constructed modules touched on every aspect of the U.S. airport ecosystem, in a cohesive manner. It helped me understand the changing industry landscape, and operational and management strategies that would help to re-invent the overall airport and travel experience. The program is also helping me better understand how to engage airport development stakeholders and regulatory bodies in the advancement of a more resilient, efficient, sustainable, customer-centric aviation system.

ACI-NA: What would you say to a friend or colleague who expresses interest in USAP?

SP: I endorse the USAP program for anyone who desires to grow as a leader within the aviation industry. It strengthens the critical skills necessary to effectively manage and lead change in the current dynamic airport environment. Congratulations to ACI-NA for delivering such rigorous professional development, and thank you for the opportunity to participate.

About the USAP Accreditation Program

In 2020, ACI-NA launched an accredited e-learning training curriculum, the U.S. Airport Professional (USAP) Program, to equip students with the leadership and strategic management skills necessary for personal and professional advancement in the U.S. airport industry.  The program was developed in collaboration with U.S. airport industry and professional development experts.

Comprised of seven online courses and a writing assignment, the USAP accreditation program covers the full range of current airport management topics, including leadership development, business strategy, commercial management, finance, operations, safety, security, air service, and more.  Each student who completes the program is permitted to use the USAP credential to demonstrate their understanding of the U.S. airport system.

Learn more about the U.S. Airport Professional accreditation program at www.usairportprofessional.org.

 

Marking 20 Years of Our Partnership with TSA

By Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, ACI-NA

Collaboration has long been the hallmark of our industry.  No matter if we’re in a season of joy or a time of crisis, the greater aviation industry has always found common ground to help ensure the health, safety, and security of the traveling public.  Whether responding to a global pandemic or a security incident, our industry is built on strong partnerships.

One of our closest partners is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency comprised of tens of thousands of individuals who are dedicated to ensuring the security of the traveling public. The close partnership with TSA has been critical during the pandemic in helping airports remain operational while working collaboratively to provide for the health, safety and security of the travelers, employees and tenants.

Just two months ago, ACI-NA and the airport industry recognized the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that significantly impacted our industry, and resulted in widespread enhancements in aviation and airport security across the world.

Today, we mark another significant milestone in aviation security: the twentieth anniversary of the TSA.  On this very day, 20 years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, legislation that would further enhance aviation security through the creation of TSA and help restore public confidence in air travel.

The legislation directed the newly created TSA to hire, train, test and deploy Transportation Security Officers; purchase and install Explosive Detection Systems for screening checked baggage; hire and dispatch Federal Security Directors to airports to oversee screening operations and verify airports’ compliance with established regulations.

Airports remain committed to working with their TSA partners to ensure effective security through the implementation of risk-based measures to mitigate current and emerging threats, and in response to assessments.  Due to the unpredictable nature of security threats, airports often go above and beyond baseline security requirements, implementing additional processes, procedures, and technologies that are adapted to each airport’s unique geographic locations and facility designs.

While passengers see security checkpoints, the most recognizable part of the aviation security system they do not see the fully integrated, multi-layered approach to airport security that happens behind the scenes.

Maintaining the safety and security of the traveling public is the top priority for airports.  Airports, in full compliance with federal requirements, continually work with their TSA, law enforcement and airline partners to examine, test, and improve upon the risk-based security system to provide for the safety and security of travelers.

So much has changed in the last 20 years, including the overhaul and expansion of aviation security and the creation of agencies like the TSA.

We appreciate the strong partnership we have with TSA and our other aviation partners.  Our security mission is a shared mission.  During the pandemic airports worked closely with their TSA partners to deploy contactless security systems and technology to further enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the aviation security system.

Notably, a new generation of airport leaders have joined our industry since the 9/11 attacks and the creation of TSA.  These leaders will build upon the extensive work that has been conducted and the lessons learned through our close collaboration with TSA over the last 20 years, further reinforcing the safety and security culture we have today.

As we look toward the next 20 years of partnership with TSA and our aviation security partners, we are continually reminded that our work to provide for the health, safety, and security of the traveling public and airport workers will never be finished.

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) Celebrating 15th Anniversary with Allegiant Air!

By Tom Jewsbury, Airport Director, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE)

Fifteen years has flown by, literally, with Allegiant! In September 2006, PIE announced a new airline was coming to town with 12 non-stop, low-cost destinations! Allegiant made headlines with its 12-hour $12 fare promotion and PIE began a new chapter of setting passenger records.

Today, PIE is Allegiant’s 2nd biggest airport in the 130 plus it serves. With 59 non-stop destinations, Allegiant and St. Pete-Clearwater Int’l claim the most non-stops of all airlines in the Tampa Bay area. It launched with the idea to link small, underserved airports and create new affordable opportunities for families and friends to connect and vacation. The Result – PIE consistently ranks in the top 10 airports for lowest round-trip domestic airfare; in 2020, PIE ranked #7 with $107.16 compared to the national average round-trip airfare of $292.20 (US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics). Together, PIE and Allegiant’s value and convenience, created a loyal passenger base and boosted our tourism economy.

“Allegiant has been the gateway to visiting my daughter and now grandchildren for the past decade. With nonstop flights from Allentown to St. Pete-Clearwater, it’s made visiting an absolute breeze! We loved St. Pete so much we decided to visit permanently in 2020!” shared Allegiant passenger Rosanne Totzke.

The first flights launched on November 16, 2006 included Allentown, PA; Rockford, IL; and Peoria, IL; and year after year, new destinations have been added. Our strong growth in passengers reflects the rise in new destinations; Since Allegiant’s first full year (2007) to 2019 (last pre pandemic calendar year), Allegiant passengers increased by over 200% at PIE!

“St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is a terrific partner and a wonderful example of the many benefits a locally-focused, easy-to-access airport brings to leisure travelers,” said Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr., Allegiant’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Unlike other carriers, Allegiant is 100 percent focused on providing access to affordable, convenient nonstop flights that make vacations possible. Our growth and success at PIE over 15 years is testament to a partnership that helps us keep fares low, at a friendly location our customers love.”

Allegiant has celebrated our collective success along the way with some exciting giveaways and community contributions! Participating in school field trip tours and an aviation careers video, Southeastern Guide Dog Puppy Training Tours, hurricane donation drives, Big Brothers Big Sisters Workplace Mentoring program, Make-A-Wish travel packages, dedicated Veterans Honor Flight charters, Allegiant makes a difference in our community.

“PIE is fortunate to have a strong partnership with Allegiant and look forward to continued growth. Tampa Bay travel opportunities were transformed when Allegiant launched in St. Pete-Clearwater. Our improvements and growth are tied to their investment in our region.” Tom Jewsbury, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport Director.

How to Build a Post-COVID Customer Experience Action Plan


By Liliana Petrova, Founder and CEO, The Petrova Experience

As we welcome the new wave of travelers, ensuring safe, seamless experiences is make-or-break for airports in the next 6 months. It is incumbent upon airports to create human-centered experiences that alleviate customer anxiety and transform passengers into advocates for travel. To do this, airport operators must serve passengers differently, both in the terminal and online.  But where do you begin? You can start by making a Post-Covid Customer Experience Action Plan.

CX Assessment

The first step of the Post – Covid Customer Experience Plan is a CX Assessment -a  comprehensive evaluation of the experience you currently offer.

Before you start your CX Assessment, do a mindset check. Do not think like yourself. For you, the terminal is your second home. Instead, think like an anxious traveler who has not been in an airport for a year, who may still have doubts that she/he should be there at all.

This is not merely an ideation exercise; it should involve interviewing customers to hear their voice and spending time in your terminal and on your website as if you are traveling that day. Divide your assessment into sections: Communications and Hospitality; Services and Entertainment; and Amenities.

Digital Experience: Build Connection and Alleviate Anxiety

Think about being at home, ready to make your first trip of 2021. Check your airport website. Is your website language alleviating or increasing anxiety?

Can you easily find:

1) information about airport expectations and/or regulations regarding masks, concessions working hours, suspended services, etc.

3) updates on airport construction projects

4) relevant wayfinding information

Physical Experience: Strengthen Connection and Promote Confidence

Next, examine the physical experience. Walk through the terminal as if you have never flown out of your airport. How clear is the wayfinding?

Now, think about the service changes to travel following COVID. Do you have any kind of substitutes for the in-person volunteers? Digital/self-service concierge solutions, virtual volunteers, even robots that roam the airport are all ways for your volunteers to maintain strong connections with your guests remotely.

The final, crucial, step of the Airport CX Assessment, is to check if your airport is inclusive. Put yourself in the position of an individual in need of a wheelchair, or a parent with a young child. Are there support services that are still not available because of COVID? Lastly, if you are an international airport, are there any communication materials for passengers explaining local COVID protocols and other important information?

Programming and Funding

Once you have completed the CX Assessment, identify and categorize gaps and opportunities in your guest’s journey. Formalize those aggregate findings into a program that includes projects that close customer experience gaps in the next 6-12 months. Now, you are ready to secure CX funding.

Getting funded can be an even greater challenge than designing transformative customer experiences. To streamline the process and start delivering better travel experiences fast, remember to align your thinking and communication with your brand strategy. Leverage the data you gathered in the CX Assessment, share your programming ideas, and connect your CX program outcomes with your airport’s bottom line.

Do not be afraid to create a sense of urgency. This is a classic case of “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” We have one chance to meet our returning travelers where they are. And to pave the way for a return to travel that sustains and uplifts our industry.

For help executing your Customer Experience Action Plan in time to welcome your new travelers, contact The Petrova Experience.

Leveraging Brand Values to Win back Customer Confidence

By Roel Huinink, President & CEO, JFKIAT

At JFKIAT our T4 is MORE culture is driven by our greatest asset, our people and community. However, as an air terminal with 12,000 employees and numerous stakeholders, sustaining a customer-centric culture is an ongoing effort. Together with our partners at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), we align our T4 is MORE customer experience program with their WE SOAR program to create a consistent and holistic customer-centric culture. Over time, this strong cultural foundation has allowed us to be resilient, persevere, and win back customer confidence.

“MORE” or “Making Outstanding Rewarding Experiences,” is delivered by thoughtfully acting on our brand values that each employee wears on their lanyard: Be Happy and Friendly, Be Informative, Be Safe and Be Memorable and are directly aligned with our efforts to win back customer confidence in air travel.

Be Happy and Be Friendly

It’s been said that happy employees create happy customers, and we agree. Although it would have been easy to cancel the 2020 Employee Appreciation Day event due to the pandemic, we decided to move on with this beloved event to create cheer and show empathy and appreciation when it was most needed.

Creating a community culture is key, especially in the midst of a pandemic. We approach our stakeholders, service providers and airline customers as partners in our shared success and ask for their collaboration and feedback at all levels. After implementing our initial COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives, we actively surveyed our airline customers to measure effectiveness and gain improvement insights.

Be Informative

Being informative is at the core of what we do, and customers are quick to ask any one of our employees a question. This year we transformed our traditional T4 is MORE classroom training to a new interactive and gamified web-based training. From the beginning of the pandemic we have consistently communicated with employees via our online T4 Safe Travel Resource Center, T4 is MORE email newsletter, and virtual T4 community meetings.

Be Safe

Safety is our highest priority and creating a safe environment that wins back customer confidence depends on our employees’ behaviors and actions. For example, we have methodically increased our deep cleaning routines throughout the terminal using anti-viral solutions and electrostatic cleaning in high touch areas. Optics are critical to building customer confidence and our cleaning employees are highly visible.

Throughout the pandemic, JFKIAT’s Health and Wellness pilot program has tested Thermo Temperature platforms from FLIR, Thales, and Omnisense. We are now testing the Health Pass by CLEAR thermal temperature screening platform. We also continue to closely collaborate with the PANYNJ and all of our stakeholders, including the CDC and the New York State Department of Health, to support them in their efforts to create a safe environment.

Be Memorable

As part of our larger COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives, we developed a communications strategy to generate awareness, educate and inform both employees and customers of what to expect and what is required of them to keep everyone safe.

Rather than implementing the standard institutional instructional strategy, we developed and executed S.M.I.L.E at T4. This multichannel digital and print campaign personifies the ‘Be Memorable’ brand value, and brings positivity while informing and educating.

Although this a small sample of what we’ve done here at T4 to successfully leverage our brand values to win back customer confidence, we hope that you can apply this learning to increase customer confidence and regain business.

Looking Forward One Year In

By Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, ACI-NA

Now at the one-year milestone of widespread travel and local restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we are reminded that this past year has been incredibly challenging for so many, both personally and professionally.  While so much has changed in our industry as we continue to respond to this prolonged crisis, airports remain fully committed to ensuring the health, safety and security of the traveling public and airport workers.

Although North American airports quickly mobilized to protect travelers and workers, the significant drop in passenger traffic has wiped out record growth in air travel and decimated the airport industry’s financial outlook. In 2019, more than 1.9 billion people traveled through North American airports.  At the start the pandemic, air travel dropped by upwards of 95 percent.  ACI-NA estimates that the pandemic will cost U.S. airports more than $40 billion and Canadian airports more than $5.5 billion — a number that will only grow if the pandemic drags on.

There is no shortage of issues confronting the industry.  Early in the pandemic, ACI-NA created the Airport Industry Recovery Advisory Panel to provide the industry with valuable recommendations on immediate term, medium term and long-term measures to address the public health concerns and assist airports coming out of the pandemic.

These initiatives, ranging from restoring confidence in air travel to implementing a wide variety of mitigation strategies, are fostering a completely new level of collaboration across aviation industry stakeholders.  We each have a role to play, and the value of partnership has never been more important. As we think about the future, airports leaders should remain cognizant of the ever-evolving airport business model.  Our ongoing relationships with airline partners, concessionaires, retailers, service providers, and government regulators are essential to our continued success.

ACI-NA led the charge in an effort secure $20 billion in immediate financial relief for the U.S. airport industry.  We are immensely grateful from the strong support of the U.S. government for airports and their concession partners as they remain open and fully operational though this crisis.

Thanks to the proactive leadership of our team in Ottawa, Canada’s airports received some of the only sector specific COVID support in Canada, with some CAD $1.4 billion through ground rent waivers and deferrals, wage subsidy, and infrastructure funding.  However, as the situation in Canada grows more dire each day, our work continues in Canada to secure addition relief to meaningfully address the financial challenges Canada’s airports face.

One of the silver linings to come out of this pandemic is the rapid innovation and the deployment of new technologies to allow for a seamless – and contactless – passenger experience.  While most of this progress had seemed years away, the pandemic has accelerated this effort to turn our industry’s aspirations into reality.  One thing is clear: the passenger experience will look different than it did before. It is going to be better.

Airports have taken unprecedented actions to limit the spread of COVID-19.  As the eternal optimist, I am confident there is a light at the end of the tunnel and much to be done when we emerge from it. From enhancing airport sustainability and resiliency to taking full advantage of automation and big data to enabling a new generation of aircraft to operate at our airports, we face myriad opportunities to make a difference in the aviation industry. All of these opportunities require a ready and able workforce. We look forward to working with the industry to develop training that will help current airport workers adapt as well as prepare the next generation to make their mark on aviation.

Thank you for the continued trust you place in ACI-NA and the immensely talented team here at your trade association.  I continue to be proud of our team, our members, and the important work we do on behalf of North American airports.

 

Mask Over Matter: Communicating in the Age of the Mask

By Lise D’Andrea, CXE

So, here we are, facing our new reality behind a mask. Since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the use of cloth masks or face covering in early April to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have been struggling with our new normal of trying to talk, listen and breathe behind masks. Compounded by physical distancing, from the boardroom to the frontline we find ourselves in uncharted customer experience territory.

In many countries around the globe, face coverings and masks are usually only worn by healthcare professionals or for religious or cultural observances. Overnight, this changed. While a seemingly simply and small shift, the impacts on how we communicate are profound. For those not used to wearing a face covering, many find it hard to breathe and talk, that words appear muffled, and that to be heard you have to almost yell.

Beyond words, human beings have long relied on reading entire facial expressions to reduce misunderstandings and guide interactions. The eyes and mouth provide some of the greatest clues to feelings and intent. Now, a smile that signifies a friendly hello and a chance to build understanding is covered. In the travel and hospitality industries, where the first step of customer service has always been to smile, we find ourselves having to rethink our approach.

A recent article by the BBC, “How face masks affect our communication,” shares that all is not lost. If we take cues from other cultures and professions accustomed to masks and face covering and amplify our body language, we can continue to create positive and meaningful connections with customers and coworkers.

While there are several ways to overcome the barriers of masks, these five techniques can quickly place you on the path to overcoming the “mask challenge”:

Eye Contact: Eye contact is the go-to means to make a connection with people. Continually scan to make eye contact with others around you to create connections and help proactively spot the needs of others.

Eye Gestures: It is possible to say a lot without saying anything at all – especially with your eyes. Gestures made with eyebrows, eye lids and overall eye movements can help customers better understand you, and you them.

Head and Facial Gestures: Although your face is covered, you can still support your voice with gestures using your head and face. For example, a tilted head for questions and “smiling” eyes can help deliver your message.

Hand Gestures: Hand gestures can be the megaphone for communication tactics. From a thumbs up to a wave, hand gestures help to clearly reinforce verbal and nonverbal communication.

Active Listening skills: Active listening skills are vital when you are masked, and facial and verbal cues are limited. Nodding and leaning-in show that you are listening.

In this new age of social distance, customer experience dynamics are evolving. Honing your communication skills can lead to increased confidence, stronger customer and coworker relationships, and less frustration and disappointment. As we navigate our new normal for customer and employee experiences, an innovative reality will redefine how we communicate, connect, and carry on to chart a new course towards customer experience excellence.

Lise D’Andrea is the Founder and CEO of CXE (formerly Customer Service Experts), an organization that specializes in helping airports, hospitality, food and beverage, retail, business, and government clients to define and deliver innovative and successful customer (CX) and employee experience (EX) programs. Harnessing over 25 years of experience developing customer and employee experience strategies, CXE has developed a practical eBook guide, “Mask Over Matter,” to help businesses quickly adjust to a society where mask wearing is prevalent. In August, CXE also plans to release an employee-centric, interactive, web-based training designed to acclimate employees to the new post-pandemic workplace and help them continue to make meaningful connections with customers.