At its April 2022 Forum, the Airport Restaurant & Retail Association (ARRA) welcomed Matt Cornelius and Annie Russo of Airports Council International - North America to discuss how airports are faring in their recovery at the two-year mark of the pandemic. Matt and Annie discussed financial recovery, labor shortages, restoring full operations, and federal legislative priorities. Here are three takeaways:
👉 As traffic has recovered, airports are in a better position, but they're not completely back to normal yet without the full return of international and business traffic. It's going to still be a while.
The robust increase in domestic leisure travel has certainly helped and airports are very much on the way to recovery. However, the long-term impacts are going to continue to affect the industry. Two years of low traffic numbers put a lot of airports at a disadvantage for a while. It impacts everything that they can do from bonding to where they were on infrastructure projects. It's going to take a while to catch up, but it's a lot better than it was.
👉 Recovery is usually discussed in terms of traffic and numbers, but it also means recovery in terms of restrictions and behaviors. We’ve seen governments act very quickly to respond to the pandemic, to put in place protections for travelers, for workers; but they've been slow to take them back.
Then there's consumer behavior. A lot of airlines changed rules for how people buy tickets and how they travel. And so, travel decision-making is still in flux. We'll see if it goes back to the way it was or if consumer behavior ends up being a permanent change in the air travel industry.
👉 We've seen passenger behaviors change and that will change airport business models as well. Airports incurred a lot of cost for increasing cleaning, providing hand sanitizer, and all of the other things that you think about when it comes to COVID. That stuff doesn't go away. Airports can't cut that back. Those are now normal passenger expectations.
These are just three key takeaways from our April Forum. ARRA invites you to watch the whole conversation:
Airports are at the center of the aviation ecosystem. Airports are the places passengers and airplanes come together – the places where airlines, concessionaires, and other businesses interact with their customers. Airports are a primary element of the travel experience. At the two-year mark of the pandemic, airports face recovery challenges along with the rest of us in the ecosystem. Matt Cornelius and Annie Russo of Airports Council International – North America join us to discuss how airports are faring in their recovery and topics such as labor shortages, restoring full operations, financial health, and infrastructure improvements in light of the bipartisan infrastructure law. We will also talk about ACI’s legislative priorities for 2022, as well as the upcoming FAA Reauthorization. Annie and Matt’s perspectives are important insights to help evolve the business model. We hope you can join us.
Executive Vice President
Airports Council International – North America
Matt joined ACI-NA in November 2012 and is currently Executive Vice President. Since joining ACI-NA, Matt has served in various positions and has been essential in the strengthening of ACI’s relationship with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Matt has also led efforts to develop new products and services that promote best practices and innovation in the airport industry. His vast aviation industry experience has allowed him to provide insight and support for many issues including U.S., Canadian and international aviation regulations, air service development, international bilateral air service issues, airport/airline business relations, passenger facilitation and more. Prior to joining ACI-NA, Matt served as Airline Affairs Manager with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. He also has held roles in Frontier Airlines’ finance and commercial strategy departments, worked in airport operations at Denver International Airport, and began his career with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he held various positions in customer service and airport operations. Matt is a graduate of Villanova University, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, and also holds an MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder
Chief Political and Congressional Strategy Officer
Airports Council International – North America
Annie joined ACI-NA in April 2008 and currently serves as the Chief Political and Congressional Strategy Officer. She develops and leads ACI-NA’s advocacy strategies on the many pressing legislative challenges facing the industry. Russo has led ACI-NA’s Government and Political Affairs department since September 2015. Prior to ACI-NA, Russo served as Legislative Director for Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.), directing legislative policy and handling the congressman’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Financial Services Committee assignments. She has also served as Senior Legislative Assistant to Rep. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.), assisting with his work on the Transportation Subcommittee of Appropriations and working closely with local airports on issues surrounding safety, noise reduction and airspace redesign. Russo spent her first three years on Capitol Hill working for Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.),who represents her hometown of South Deerfield, Mass. Annie is a graduate of Smith College, with a degree in government and public policy, and also holds a master’s degree in national security studies from the Naval War College.