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ATAC Meeting

Tackling Competition and Conflict.


September 27, 2007
By James Careless

363“Competing Mandates and Conflicting Visions:” That’s the theme of this
year’s Air Transport Association of Canada annual general meeting and
trade show. Scheduled to be held at the Fairmont Empress Hotel and
Victoria Conference Centre Nov. 5-7 in BC’s capital, this ATAC meeting
has an ambitious goal – to spotlight the competing agendas of Canada’s
aerospace players, and the reasons why they need to start working
together more closely.

“Airports,
Nav Canada, CATSA, Transport Canada, and the airlines are all component
parts of our commercial aviation system,” says Fred Gaspar, ATAC’s
vice-president of policy and strategic planning. “Yet, rather than
working together toward a common goal – the best service of the
fare-paying passenger – they often put their own interests first.”

A
case in point: “Airports tend to view themselves as businesses, with
airlines only ranking as one of many suppliers,” Gaspar says. “As a
result, they have been going ahead with expansion projects that
outstrip the airlines’ ability to pay, rather than keeping their
expenses in line with what the industry can afford.”

In the same
vein, Nav Canada’s “narrow mandate” keeps it from considering the
impact of its rate increases on airline traffic, says Gaspar. It
doesn’t help that “Nav Canada isn’t required to set its rates in
relation to what the commercial aviation market can bear.”

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And,
Gaspar continues, “although CATSA’s mandate is rightfully focused on
delivering security services, we see no reason why they can’t be
mandated to be more accountable to airline operational requirements. At
the end of the day, all screening operations have to make sense, from a
commercial and safety perspective.” As for Transport Canada? “Their
policy framework does not place priority on the needs of the travelling
public.”

Finally, there are the airlines. With passengers
obsessed with getting the cheapest flights possible while grousing
about reductions to in-flight amenities, “airlines are caught trying to
find the right equilibrium point between price and service,” says
Gaspar. “Since they can’t do anything about the price of fuel, airlines
have been turning themselves inside out to deliver the low fares
customers demand.”

This is where the full title of this year’s
ATAC general meeting comes in – “Competing Mandates and Conflicting
Visions: Examining the Interdependence of Canada’s Commercial Aviation
Space.” ATAC wants all components that serve Canadian air passengers to
pay more attention to their need for each other; and start working
together toward a common goal of serving passengers first.

This
year’s plenary session (on Monday Nov. 6, between 10 and 11:30 am) will
take up this discussion in earnest. “We hope that this session will
create more awareness of this problem, and get people talking about the
issue and to start moving toward resolving it,” Gasper says. “If this
happens, it will be a step in the right direction for all players, and
the paying passengers we all serve.”

ATAC will be offering
advice on the federal government’s plans to reform airport governance.
“This reform is a tacit acknowledgment that there is no accountability
by airports to anyone,” says Gaspar. “We have many tangible ideas for
changing the current legislation, such as allowing airlines to appeal
the fees that the airports currently impose on them.”

ATAC has
set its sights high for the 2006 AGM. What matters most is the need for
airports, Nav Canada, CATSA, Transport Canada and the carriers to come
together for the common good. “We’re here to serve the flying public
who buy tickets,” says Gaspar. “This must be paramount in our minds,
whatever our individual mandates and agendas.”


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