Inside the Fence

Nov. 21, 2006

On the conference circuit - a pretty dynamic place to be ...

Start with ACI-NA's annual convention in Reno, where Administrator Blakey took much of her talk to address airfield safety - placing appropriate attention on Lexington.

News of note included the split of legislative lobbying efforts by ACI-NA and AAAE. For several years they've attacked Washington from one office. In effect, it was a contracted service, one purchased by ACI-NA. Now it's two associations; two lobbying efforts ... two separate voices?

Fast forward to Deer Valley, UT (SLC) and the annual conference put on by The Boyd Group of Evergreen, CO. The epitome of skepticism, Mike Boyd is bullish on the airline business, especially that of the legacy carriers. Hub and spoke - and profitability - are all the rage again.

A Boyd synopsis: Profitability will be the norm for U.S. carriers in 2007. The low-cost carriers will have the most difficult time growing; the hub and spoke carriers will focus on international growth, and benefit therein. Small communities should be aware that 50-seat RJs are on their way out of the market - rapidly - to be replaced by 70-seaters or other options.

James May, president of ATA, offered Boyd attendees this regarding ATC reform: "We've been crying wolf for 23 years, and the wolf is finally at the door."

At New Orleans, site of this year's National Airports Conference hosted by AAAE, the talk was of airline health; security; very light jets; and airports getting into ground services.

A couple of observations: 1) Must be time for Congress to actually fund the security measures/equipment it says are needed at U.S. airports; and 2) The industry is clearly split on the impact of VLJs.

At NBAA in Orlando, the order books for VLJs (and other bizjets) continued to fill. Yet, people like Boyd suggest that VLJs will most likely serve as replacement aircraft for previous business aircraft owners.

Meanwhile, the annual NBAA convention was as robust (33,000-plus) as any. Service companies (FBOs) have turned their focus on 'integrated solutions' that seek to match all their services to each customer's needs. In other words, selling every service to every customer. Oh, and the big guys remain focused on growth through acquisition - in a seller's market.

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Finally, some of our own news. Wolfgang Neuwirth has joined AIRPORT BUSINESS as our new publisher. His resume includes time in sales with our brother publication, Aircraft Maintenance Technology.

Thanks for reading.