Role of Airports
Jonathan Howe, director general of Airports Council International, based in Geneva, Switzerland, told the conference that individual airlines are having a declining impact on airports as the latter move away from exclusive agreements with carriers. "I think this will have some impact on your business," he says.
Howe says that airports, particularly in Europe, are looking more and more at fuel as a potential profit center but adds, "the airports are not going to want to antagonize their best customers." In the final analysis, he says, the end result will come out of constructive negotiations.
A general discussion regarding airport fuel facilities led to a consensus that too frequently airports over-build facilities. According to conference sponsor John Armbrust, a higher cost for fuel farm infrastructure leads to increased costs to airlines, higher customer rates, and ultimately a negative impact on the use of the airport and its facilities. The more a facility costs, the more it takes for upkeep and debt amortization.
A fuel facility is justified only if the costs are reasonable and reconcilable, he says.
Other concerns raised about fuel farm construction at airports:
• Among air carriers, the number of staffers who can offer valuable input for a fuel farm is lessening.
• To help contain costs, engineering should be done up front. Often, there’s a "rush atmosphere" to get the farm up and running.
• "What we’re all saying is you (airports) have the wrong process," says Armbrust. That is, it is airports, authorities, and politicians that generally drive such an infrastructure building process without first consulting the airlines, engineers, designers, manufacturers, etc.
A panel discussion on fueling operations spurred a lively discussion of Air Transport Association rule 103, which the panel defined as an attempt to set guidelines for fuel quality when the major fuel suppliers began getting out of the U.S. airport market.
ATA 103, say sources, assumes a separate refueler maintenance program will be put in place by an operator. In fact, they say, many refueling companies use it to serve as a guide for refueler/chasis checks.
Agreement was reached that some sort of standard for refueler maintenance should be set, perhaps by another trade association which represents such operators. At the least, say sources, ATA 103 should clearly say what it is not.