The most pressing issue for the whole sector at present is Brexit – given the uncertainty that revolves around the circumstances of the UK's departure from the EU. The repercussions of Polish airports losing around 20% of their passenger traffic to their biggest single overseas destination – the UK – is causing their management sleepless nights. Can they make it back through new destinations, new products and services or higher revenues from existing products and services?
The conference, aimed at senior managers of regional airports and the businesses based there – duty-free shops, catering outlets, car parks, also served to showcase the latest technological advances in supporting civil aviation.
After an intoduction and welcome from the Marshal of Podkarpackie voivodship, Władysław Ortyl, and the president of the G2A Arena by Rzeszów Airport, the venue for the event, the BPCC's chief advisor, Michael Dembinski, set out the options for Brexit and the threats posed by a hard 'no-deal' Brexit, and how these might impact the aviation industry – both airlines and the aerospace industry and its supply chain.
Rebecca Christie, from the Department for Transport's Aviation EU Exit Strategy, gave the introductory presentation about the issues being negotiated between the EU Commission and the UK Government, including safety and security standards, market access, air traffic management and regulatory alignment. She said that 73% of all air visits to the UK from Poland were made by Poles visiting their families there. Ms Christie said it was essential for the UK to stay in the European Air Safety Agency, and to maintain connectivity.
Her presentation was followed by a British-Polish discussion panel of airport operators – Neil Pakey, chairman of the Regional and Business Airports Group and Tony Griffin, senior vice president of consultancy ASM Global Route Development joined Dariusz Kuś, president of Wrocław Airport and Leszek Chorzewski, chairman of Warsaw Modlin Airport, to discuss the risks to the airports' business models of losing a significant part of their passengers, and to look at ways in which airports could recoup their losses. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit was already affecting airlines' planning; Ryan Air, for example, has to have all its holiday flight plans for the summer of 2019 ready by this September – where will its planes be? And EasyJet is registering itself as a business in Austria so it could continue to fly within the EU after Brexit.
Conference participants then gathered into small teams to brainstorm the best ways of dealing with the potential threat to revenues. Many interesting observations were made and shared; securing the aviation industry's interests post-Brexit also requires some lobbying, it was agreed.
An interesting case study showing how technology can help boost duty-free sales was presented by Andrzej Czechowski, Samsung Polska's chief data officer, and Karolina Szuba, board member of PHZ Baltona. Data analysing airside footfall, can show how length of time spent between check-in and gate determines not just how much passengers will spend in the shops there, but also what category of goods they are most likely to buy.
After lunch, the non-aviations revenue potential was explored further. Wojciech Ławniczak, president of Very Human Services, gave the introductory presentation covering changing trends in travel retail, changes spearheaded by the Millennials generation and their attitudes to spending their money and leisure time. They are far more likely to travel abroad on short break holidays – but are also more likely to use price-comparison apps before doing any major shopping in the duty-free zones. This point was confirmed by Piotr Kazimierski, the president of PHZ Baltona in the following panel session when he was asked how technology was changing his business. Also on the panel were Maciej Zawadzki, president of APCOA Parking Polska, who explained how his business had to deliver continually improved services or risk losing out. Valet parking and taking clients' cars to be serviced while they were away were two such added-value propositions. Rafał Milczarski, president of the board of LOT Polish Airlines, looked forward to the new Central Communication Hub being operational in time for LOT's 100th birthday in 2029. He also said that the young generation tended to shun the privately-owned car in favour of ride-sharing, taxi apps and public transport; self-driving cars were around the corner, he said, which did not augur well for the future of airport car parks. Mariusz Wiatrowski, president of Poznań-Ławica Airport and deputy president of Poland's Regional Airports Association shared the insights of airport operators as they kept abreast of technological and social change.
After a further presentation showcasing artificial intelligence and its role in supporting on-site advertising at airports, there was a summing up of the day's proceedings from Michał Tabisz, the president of Rzeszów Airport.
Wiadomości samorządowe Urząd Marszałkowski: