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.

The Importance of Employee Resilience

By Roel Huinink, President & CEO, JFKIAT

This past year has disrupted and accelerated the pace of change in people, processes, place and technology across all aspects of the aviation industry. Although we are faced with daily uncertainty, we continue to be flexible, collaborate, share and explore new ways to adapt to the new normal of air travel.

After nearly a year of pandemic operations, it’s become clear that this accelerated pace of transformative change we’ve experienced in 2020 will remain with us for the foreseeable future. A term we have heard industry leaders use throughout the pandemic is resilience – the ability to recover quickly from difficult situations. Based on what we’ve learned at JFKIAT, resilience is just as important to reinforce within an organization’s culture as is crisis response to a global pandemic.

We have prioritized the health and safety of our employees throughout the crisis and as a result, we have a strong culture of unity and placed that first and foremost during this crisis.  We have not only persevered, but have also witnessed our community and partners go above and beyond to ensure a safe and secure environment to win back customer confidence. Thanks to our experiences, we encourage and believe deeply the value of building and maintaining a resilient employee culture.

Ensure safety and provide reassurance within the workplace

As essential workers, our employees at T4 have been on the front lines throughout the crisis. For many, this crisis began long before the U.S. response was widespread. Back in January 2020, due to CDC recommendations, our teams were meeting Wuhan flights alongside our government partners. We remained the only terminal at JFK operating 24/7 throughout the entire pandemic, and even as we saw decreases in flight and passenger traffic, our employees continued to come to work every day for 12 hour shifts to maintain separated workforces for social distancing.

In the early months of the pandemic, our team developed a multi-faceted, comprehensive response and recovery campaign to ensure the safety and wellbeing of customers and employees. To keep employees safe, we stockpiled PPE to ensure that our staff had the proper protective gear to perform their work, conducted numerous temperature check pilots for passengers and employees, and worked with XpresCheck to launch the country’s first COVID-19 testing facility at an air terminal to make testing conveniently available for our employees and travelers right in the arrivals hall at T4.

Reinforce your mission

A recent ACI study found that 80% of respondents were confident that airports and airlines are providing a safe environment.  Still, we have more work to do to demonstrate that airports are taking the right safety measures to restore customer confidence.

At JFKIAT, a cornerstone of our mission is to provide the highest levels of safety and security, and we have worked very hard to incorporate that mission into every aspect of our culture at T4. Reinforcing that mission became a critical aspect of our efforts to keep T4 safe throughout the pandemic.

Our core values became even more important as our employees implemented enhanced cleaning processes, followed new social distancing procedures, and worked to relieve customers’ anxiety during their travels. Reinforcing your core “why” is important to keep employees, and leaders alike, focused on what really matters – especially in times of crisis.

Express gratitude and appreciation

Keeping our employees and partners informed and connected was essential to our efforts as we dealt with the pandemic’s impacts, and in every communication, we let them know how grateful we were for their contributions to the T4 community. We launched a social media series, Heroes of T4, to spotlight our employees’ exceptional work, launched an employee “thank you” video within the first few months of the crisis, and hosted an Employee Appreciation Day over the summer to express our thanks for their dedication. Continually communicating gratitude to our staff has helped us to boost morale and maintain a positive environment at T4.

We recognized every aspect of this pandemic and response was not easy for most. Our industry and employees will be changed forever. If we have made a positive impact on our community to ensure they know we support their safety, security, health and well-being first and foremost goes a long way – and is the single most important aspect to restore customer confidence.  We care about every single person that walks through our doors and we prove that every day. As we look to the future, I believe that resilience within an organization’s culture will be critical as the aviation industry continues to transform.

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.

Americans Are Starting to Fly Again

States around the country are taking their first steps to safely reopen our economy and to start rebuilding a sense of normal life. This Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in North America — a well-deserved benchmark that we’ve made it through a difficult start of this year. This typically marks the beginning of our busy travel season, and while COVID-19 has quieted the typical buzz in our airport terminals and dramatically reduced the crowds, we are finally seeing an uptick in passengers who want to travel again.

Despite the challenges we still face, the Transportation Security Administration expects more than 350,000 people to travel through our airports this Memorial Day weekend. That is a far cry from the 2.7 million air travelers who passed through our airports last Memorial Day weekend, but it nearly doubles our traffic from weeks prior. Airports welcome these early signs of a rebound, and they are ready to help passengers navigate the new normal as we work to adapt to the future of travel together. If you’re traveling this Memorial Day weekend, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Arrive early: Airports around the U.S. have enhanced safety standards and measures for all passengers. This could mean more delays as you travel through security checkpoints. Be sure to arrive early so you are able to make it to your gate and flight on time.
  • Adhere to physical distancing: Remember to keep your physical distance (6 feet) when going through checkpoints, shopping at concessions shops, or standing in line at customer service. By keeping your distance, you can help stop the spread of germs and keep you and others in your party healthy.
  • Wear a facial covering: Many states and local governments as well as airlines are requiring that masks be worn when occupying a public space. Please be sure to bring a facial covering with you to the airport and wear it throughout your duration there. For facial coverings to be worn properly they must cover your nose, mouth, and chin.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout your time while traveling. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away in a trash bin. Avoid touching your face.
  • Be patient: We are all learning these lessons together, so please understand that our dedicated workforce is doing everything in their power to adapt to these new requirements as quickly as possible to ensure the travel experience remains as seamless as it can be in the face of new health and safety guidelines.

As the nation continues to open up and more people begin to travel, implementing these best practices will help to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Our airports are eager to welcome you back.

HAS Continues to Prepare Veterans for Airport Jobs During Coronavirus Crisis

While airport terminals remain quiet because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) health pandemic, airports remain open and operational as essential and critical infrastructure.  Airports might not be welcoming as many passengers these days, but they are still serving local communities by facilitating the movement of health care workers and life saving medical supplies.  Airports also play an increasingly important role in the food supply chain to keep grocery shelves stocked for families.

This vital work is only made possible through the hard work and resolve of essential frontline airport workers.  We applaud their dedication to their communities.  These are the kinds of jobs that can’t be don’t from home.

Because airports continue to operate – and will once again become thriving hubs of activity when travel resumes – they can’t miss a beat in having the right workers in place at the right time.  But how are airports recruiting new workers in an era of social distancing?

Thanks to a proactive approach by the human resources department at Houston Airports System (HAS) to use technology in a creative way, the airport continues its work with Edge4Vets to help military veterans prepare for a career at the airport.  Edge4Vets, a program of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University in New York and supported by Airports Council International – North America and University Aviation Association, is a powerful jobs training program to prepare and connect veterans to jobs that can lead to careers in aviation.

As part of their continuing recruiting process, HAS had planned to offer another in-person workshop training program on April 2 to military veterans. 40 veterans, including Aaron Unpingco, had registered to participate in the workshop.  Through their participation, the veterans would have received personal support from business mentors to identify their strengths from the military, including values and skills, and explore ways to match their skills and interests to airport job openings with HAS and employer partners, including airlines, concessions, security and more.

Once social distancing became the norm because of COVID-19, HAS opted to reconsider its approach and chose to offer the Edge4Vets workshop as an online program instead of cancelling it.  This preserved momentum the program had generated over the past three years to promote veteran employment and keep the pipeline for training military veterans for airport jobs moving forward until better days can come.

Edge4Vets had recently completed putting its full training curriculum into an online platform as a complement to its popular workshop series. The online course gives veterans an opportunity to work through the process to translate their military skills into civilian life at their own pace and learn through a series of videos and exercises how to create a four-part PLAN4SUCCESS for an edge with HR recruiters to get hired.

“Aaron Unpingco had great experience as a platoon leader in the army,” said Tom Murphy, founder of Edge4Vets. “The PLAN4SUCCESS he created using our online training not only showed his strong management skills but also demonstrated how his experience in IT and business administration qualified him for an administrative role at the airport. The HAS recruitment team recognized his potential immediately and suggested several jobs that could fit him.”

To help him match his skills and interests to potential jobs, Edge4Vets enlisted Goodwill industries of Houston to provide follow up support to vets who take the online course. Edge4Vets refers participants to Goodwill after they complete the course and helps them identify potential jobs not only with the airport authority, but with airlines and service companies that participate as program partners.


Aaron Unpingco, a platoon leader in Afghanistan, created a PLAN4SUCCESS and earned his Edge4Vets Certificate using Houston Airports System’s creative approach to taking the Edge4Vets jobs prep program online during the coronavirus health pandemic this spring.

Other airports participating with ACI-NA and local veterans groups in their communities in the Edge4Vets program are looking at applying Houston Airports System’s leadership approach with the online model to their airports.

“I want to be ready,” Unpingco said. “I don’t want to lose this down time during this virus crisis. I want to prepare for a job that can open the world for me.”

LAWA Serves Veterans Through Edge4Vets Successes

Over the last few years, ACI-NA has been proud to partner with Edge4Vets to help connect veterans with airports across North America to place them in careers that utilize the valuable skills they learned while serving in the military.  Ahead of Armed Forces Day on May 18, ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke caught up with Los Angeles World Airports Director of Airports Administration Paula Adams to hear about LAWA’s work to support the veterans’ workforce in the Los Angeles area.

KB: Los Angeles World Airports has been an incredible supporter of the Egde4Vets program.  Why is the program important and how you have developed it to serve veterans and your airport?

PA: One of LAWA’s strategic goals is to expect and support organizational excellence. Edge4Vets helps us meet that goal. We see the value that veterans bring to an airport environment and we are a better organization because of the 53 veterans who work with us across all divisions and levels of our team.

Being able to have someone join our airport system that knows how to work under pressure, who can meet deadlines, work as part of a team, and knows how to manage time is every hiring manager’s dream. These qualities are even more in demand at a large airport, and we know that in the right job, these veterans find wonderful opportunities to put their skills to good use.

Whether it’s with LAWA or one of our partners (e.g., airlines, concessions, retail, cargo), Edge4Vets provides veterans a unique opportunity to meet hiring managers face-to-face, which in today’s job market, is a powerful alternative to the now normal point-and-click path to an interview. In return, companies can learn more about how they can benefit from the skills that veterans bring to the table and may find new ways to bring those who have served our country into a new career.


KB: What successes stories have you experienced through the Edge4Vets program?

PA: The Edge4Vets program allowed us to make connections that might not have been made were it not for the format of the program. Edge4Vets allows a wide variety of airport companies to connect with individuals and learn about them within the context of their life as a civilian and a service member, and support them on a path to a living wage career. We have had a number of Edge4Vets participants who are now employed at LAX, and our hiring partners have been satisfied with the results. LAWA has found similar success in our hiring of Edge4Vets participants and we continue to seek out additional employees. In fact, just this week, LAWA made two provisional job offers to veterans who participated in the May 15 workshop. At that workshop, other airport companies who were there set up interviews with several veterans.

Further, at our most recent event, we heard from one veteran who highlighted “listening” as one of his key skills. After a little discussion and insight from the participating mentoring managers, the veteran elaborated that he was responsible for clearing landmines, which requires someone to have a large amount of self-restraint and ability to quietly listen. As an HR professional, I hear that story and think, “Here’s a person who is going to assess a situation based on what he knows before he acts.” He understands that there are costs to doing something wrong way, and is mindful enough to realize it. That’s a skillset that we can use.


KB: In the airport industry, collaboration between airports and their business and community partners is essential.  How is Edge4Vets helping LAWA strengthen existing relationships and building new ones?

PA: The Edge4Vets workshop’s real strength is connecting people. It fosters an environment for collaboration, not only between veterans and airport hiring managers, but also between LAWA and our airport partners, including companies that operate at LAX and nonprofit groups throughout the region. Initiatives like Edge4Vets allow us to broaden our reach to people who may not have previously had the opportunity to consider a career at LAX, and include them as part of our airport community.

KB: If an airport were thinking about rolling out their own Edge4Vets program, what piece of advice would you give them?

PA: Reach out to your local nonprofit groups who support your veteran community and partner with them to funnel qualified veterans seeking employment to your event. Then, do it! Edge4Vets is a wonderful program and provides a benefit for all involved – the airport, our partners and veterans seeking careers. Our service men and women know what it’s like working for a team and all of our airport communities can benefit by adding them to our teams.


Get Involved

Is your airport interested in becoming an Edge4Vets partner? Airports across North America are partnering with Edge4Vets and ACI-NA to help connect veterans to aviation careers. Current participants include LAX, HOU, MIA, JFK and more.

Contact Tom Murphy to learn more about hosting a workshop in your community. Edge4Vets is offered by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University. Learn more here.

Cheers to 2018: ACI-NA’s Year in Review


Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) strives to advocate for policies and provide services that strengthen the ability of commercial airports to serve their passengers, customers and communities.


2018 has been a busy year. But, it has also been a productive year for our organization as we work to ensure that North American airports operating safely and efficiently. Here are a few highlights from this year.


  • Our newest Economic Impact Study found that U.S. commercial airports are responsible for 11.5 million jobs with a payroll of more than $428 billion. To break that down, the total economic output of U.S. commercial airports exceeds $1.4 trillion — more than 7% of our nation’s GDP.
  • The Canadian Airports Council (CAC) conducted a similar study that found that Canada’s airports provide 194,000 direct jobs, $19 billion to the national GDP and $48 billion in direct economic activity.
  • According to the latest North American Traffic report, passenger traffic grew by nearly 4 percent and cargo traffic increased 7 percent in 2017.
  • These numbers help us make the case in Washington that North America’s airports are indeed powerful economic engines.  In fact, the Beyond the Runway Coalition has grown to nearly 100 members in construction, food and beverage, retail, and tourism and other industries rely on airports to drive economic growth in their local communities.
  • A few months ago, we launched a new website that gives us a platform to better educate and engage with our members, policymakers and the traveling public.
  • In Canada, CAC is launching a multi-faceted marketing campaign to their member airports tell their unique stories to policymakers, industry stakeholders and passengers.
  • On the operations side, we worked with ACI World and staff from an array of airports worldwide, performed 8 Airport Excellence in Safety reviews across the US and Canada—the most of any ACI region.
  • We assisted our member airports in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia in coordinating preparation and immediate recovery from Hurricanes Florence and Michael.
  • Maintaining the safety and security of the traveling public is a top concern for airports. The PS&S Committee continues to participate on the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, providing the TSA Administrator recommendations to mitigate potential insider threats while preserving operational flexibility.
  • Airports in the United States and Canada continue to work with ACI-NA and CAC to better facilitate transnational travel and trade through programs like pre-clearance.
  • The Risk Management Committee has completed a document to help airport risk management units manage contractual insurance compliance.
  • The Air Service committee, which was formed in 2018, has created a work plan for 2019 and has formed four task forces that will be recruiting participants in early 2019. The committee has already taken an active role in planning for JumpStart 2019 in Nashville.
  • International Air Service Program continues to support the ACI World Expert Group on Slots and the effort to create a level playing field for airports in the global allocation of scarce airport capacity. The effort is showing promise with negotiations between ACI and IATA continuing.
  • The Facilitation committee held two best practice tours jointly with the Airlines for America (A4A) Passenger Facilitation Council in 2018, visiting new biometric entry and exit installations at Miami, Orlando and San Diego.
  • The TNC Operations and Related Airport Revenues Working Group is addressing new and evolving issues with TNCs, peer-to-peer car sharing, and the potential deployment of autonomous vehicles.
  • The Human Resource Committee is strengthening their efforts on a variety of programs to develop talent pipelines and future leaders within airports. The Workforce Planning Working Group had identified three focus areas for the committee: Executive Leadership Exchange Program (ELEP), Multi-generational Workforce and an airport career awareness campaign.
  • The Edge4Vets program is continuing to work in partnership with ACI-NA to prepare and adapt the military skills of returning veterans to the civilian airport industry while also creating a related “employer network” of airport stakeholders and partners.
  • The Associates Board has remained engaged in the work ACI-NA is doing. I am pleased to report that 20 candidates put their names forward for the 3 vacancies that were open on the board.


With 2019 on the horizon, we want to keep this momentum going. After all, ACI-NA is only as strong as its members and their active engagement. We look forward to working with you in the New Year.


Happy Holidays!


Kevin Burke

President and CEO


Pay It Forward: The Life and Legacy of Sue Baer

By Mimi Ryals

Sue was an exceptional airport leader who garnered respect and admiration among her colleagues,” remembers Candace McGraw, Chief Executive Officer of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Chair of Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA). “She knew the industry and her craft and was always willing to share her knowledge and passion for the industry.”

During her 40-year career, Susan (Sue) M. Baer is credited with shattering the glass-ceiling in transportation. In doing so, she worked to strengthen aviation in the United States to ensure a successful future for the industry. Following her passing in 2016, she continues to leave a legacy worthy of being recognized with the 2018 William E. Downes, Jr. Award, ACI-NA’s highest honor.


Though she has had a profound impact on the aviation industry, Baer began her career at the Panama Canal. When the U.S. passed control of the facility to the Panamanians, she joined the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as a management analyst in the tunnels, bridges and terminals department.

“They wanted women who could type,” Baer recalled, as quoted in 2006 in Tom Murphy’s book Reclaiming the Sky: 9/11 and the Untold Story of the Men and Women Who Kept America Flying. “I convinced them that after traveling on my own through South and Central America, I could take whatever they gave me.”

Baer proved she could take whatever they gave her. She was swiftly promoted to Manager of the Public Services Division within the department. Then, she was named the Manager of the Lincoln Tunnel. She was the first woman to hold that position.

Next, Baer became the Manager of the Midtown Manhattan Port Authority Bus terminal, the world’s busiest bus terminal. She was the first woman to hold that position, too.

After mastering her various roles thus far in the agency, Baer joined the Aviation Department as General Manager of Aviation Customer and Marketing Services in 1988. She became the first person to manage all of the major agency airports – LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport. In 2009, she was named was named Director of Aviation for the agency. She was the first woman to hold that position.

“Though she followed in the footsteps of several powerful men, Sue charted her own course with a collaborative style that generated innovation,” recalls Ginger Evans, former Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Baer retired in 2013 following 25 years in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Aviation Department. To continue her successful career in the industry, she joined Arup, one of the world’s largest professional engineering and consulting firms. Her final role was as the firm’s Global Aviation Business Leader, where she oversaw consulting efforts at over 100 airports worldwide.

“Sue was the ultimate trailblazer, having been the first female General Manager at three of the largest airports in the United States (LGA, EWR, JFK) and then running one of the largest airport systems in the world, first as Deputy Director and then Director of Aviation at The Port Authority,” notes Lysa Scully, General Manager of LaGuardia Airport. “Her success and achievements have set the bar to a level that the rest of the industry will have to work endlessly to try and reach.”

A Natural Leader for Airports

Baer was regarded as a “natural leader” who exuded confidence and passion. Such traits were a vital part of her successfully managing one of the world’s most active aviation hubs. She understood the important role the airport plays in creating a seamless travel experience. Thus, she led multiple modernization efforts at New York City’s major airports.

“‘People say to me: ‘Your airports are always under construction. When’s it going to be done?’” Baer commented to USA Today on the continual modernization efforts underway in New York’s airport terminals. “‘I tell them: ‘I hope never’, because that means we’ve stopped and we’re not really meeting the needs of the future. You’ve always got to be doing something.’”

Any expert in the aviation industry will tell you that modernization efforts are necessary on the ground and in the sky. Baer was an advocate for a modernized air space to match the continual improvements the agency was making to airport terminals. She was one of the first airport leaders to champion implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), the FAA’s modernization of America’s air transportation system that aims to make flying more efficient.

She also had a deep understanding of the complexities and challenges of the New York airspace and air carriers that use it. “Sue also understood how supporting a new carrier like JetBlue that is and was dedicated to delivering low fares with a better customer experience would help discipline prices of other carriers and challenge the industry to raise its customer service game,” said Joanna Geraghty, President and Chief Operating Officer of JetBlue.

At Arup, Baer used her legendary leadership skills to foster collaboration between airport management and the design industry. Her expertise and enthusiasm made her an invaluable asset in preparing airports and the broader aviation industry for the future of travel.

A Legacy for Future Leaders

“As smart, effective and successful as she was, she will be remembered more for the integrity, kindness and wisdom with which she conducted herself in all she did,” said Jenny Buckley, America’s Aviation Leader for Arup.

Living by the motto “Pay it forward,” Baer left a legacy that ensures the future of the aviation industry and its leaders will flourish. During the busiest years of her career, she found time for a teaching role at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens, NY in hopes of making a rewarding career in the industry accessible to all genders, races and social-economic backgrounds.

A substantial part of Baer’s legacy is shattering the glass ceiling for women in transportation. She was the first woman to hold the majority of her leadership positions at the Port Authority of New York and Jersey – a revolutionary accomplishment during a time where the presence of women was rare in these industries. Following in her footsteps, there are nearly 40 women leading North America’s thriving airports today.

“What I’ve tried to do with it is give other women opportunities, and that’s something all women should be doing,” Baer once told USA Today. “It was hard for us to get here, but we ought to be making it easier for the people who are coming behind us.”

Crowd listening to a speaker at ACI-NA’s 2017 Annual Conference

Cheers to 70 Years: The Best Is Yet to Come

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

2018 represents a great milestone for Airports Council International-North America as we celebrate our seventieth anniversary as the Voice of Airports in North America. Anniversaries like this provide a great opportunity to reflect on our past, celebrate our present and look ahead to the future.

As you know, air travel – and the world – has transformed immensely over the last seventy years. And our industry’s evolution along with it hasn’t always been easy or certain. That’s one of the chief reasons ACI-NA exists.

Then in a post-war world with a growing economy, air travel was increasingly accessible to the masses. As we entered the golden age of travel, airports faced many of the same challenges we see today, including burdensome government regulation, infrastructure and investment needs, and airline decision making.

Realizing that there was power in the collective, nineteen founding members convened in New York in 1948 to establish a body that would bring airports together in addressing the challenges and issues of an evolving aviation industry.  From there, our journey took off as the Airport Operators Council.

Looking back, this industry has overcome significant hardships and setbacks. From economic ebbs and flows to airline industry deregulation and airline consolidation to the September 11, 2001 attacks, this industry has always had to be nimble and responsive to the challenge of the day.

Your association has had to be nimble too. In the past seventy years, our name has changed from Airport Operators Council to Airport Operators Council International, and now to Airports Council International-North America in an effort to make room for our ever growing U.S. and Canadian membership and global connections.

While the issues of the past may sound familiar today, so much has changed. Today, airports operate more as businesses than they ever have before.  They are becoming cities unto themselves.

The current landscape presents many unique challenges that require solutions. Today’s airports are not your father or grandfather’s airport. We are seeing a change in the way technology affects air transportation across the world.

Meeting the demands of passenger and cargo growth has never been more important. Our airports must have the ability to modernize as they seek to accommodate rapid growth in passenger and cargo traffic. In the United States alone, airports need nearly $100 billion in infrastructure upgrades and maintenance in order to remain competitive with airports across the globe.

Solving today’s challenges are essential in order to lay the foundation for the future. As such, airports around the world are actively working to enhance competition, create efficiencies through technology, and improve the passenger experience.

There used to be more than thirty airlines that no longer exist because of airline consolidation. The future of the airport industry is at stake without an economic climate that fosters airline competition and choice.

Competition has many benefits in our industry, which can be enhanced through more air service routes and more airline choices. In order to ensure communities in North America remain connected to the global marketplace, we are actively working to make certain our industry – airports and airlines – are as competitive as they can be. Our work in this important area will only grow in the years ahead.

Technology will also be a large part of an overall improved and seamless passenger experience. Today, easiness is synonymous with technology. What new technologies can we use to our benefit? Biometrics is speeding up the boarding process for certain flights, and in a just a few years, all flights may be boarded with the scan of a face.

It’s clear that we must focus on enhancing the passenger experience for a successful future. But these challenges are too big for anyone to handle alone. And that’s where your association comes in.

Members always tell me the real value of ACI-NA comes through our ability to advance airport priorities in Washington and Ottawa, provide essential industry intelligence by keeping the pulse of the issues impacting airport operations, and foster industry collaboration by creating a forum to develop and exchange best practices.  The rich history of advocating for policies and services that strengthen airports will continue as we reflect on our accomplishments and look beyond the horizon.

ACI-NA is only as strong as its members and their active engagement. Our team is proud of the members we serve because of the profound and positive impact they have on local communities across North America. Thank you for your leadership.

Today, as we celebrate our seventieth year with a strong membership and transnational – even global with the establishment of ACI World in 1992 – reach, we recognize that there are obstacles still to overcome. We’re not done yet. We’re just getting started.

Here’s to the next seventy years.