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Editorial: Canada needs a strong ATAC

Over its 74-year history, the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) has experienced every possible kind of change and challenge imaginable, and has survived them all.


October 8, 2008
By Stacy Bradshaw


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Sometimes you have to shrink before you grow again

Over its 74-year history, the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) has experienced every possible kind of change and challenge imaginable, and has survived them all. In April, the association underwent a major upheaval with the departure of Air Canada, WestJet, Jazz Air LLP and Air Transat from its ranks. The news resonated throughout the industry and left many wondering how the association would cope. Five months after the news broke, ATAC has rallied and regrouped.

Mike Skrobica, who became acting president after the departure of former president and CEO Sam Barone, told me in a recent interview that the association did review its mandate after the four members left; but determined that its overall goals would not change. Nevertheless, says Skrobica, there have been some changes in the day-to-day activities at the association.

“The workload fell,” he says. “Although we do proactive lobbying and work on regulations, we also respond to a lot of calls from our members. These calls deal with issues that arise and need a quick resolution. Air Canada, WestJet, Jazz Air LLP and Air Transat were heavy users of these services and as a consequence we are now in a position to serve our members just as well with a smaller staff.”

As a result, ATAC has been able to reduce its number of officers from seven to four, including a president and CEO. They have redistributed the workload and are currently reviewing applications for the position of president.

One point Skrobica stressed to me is that the association continues to do all the things it has always done. “All calls are responded to immediately,” says Skrobica, “and we are attending all of the meetings that we would normally attend Canada-wide. We continue to serve all of the needs of our membership.” In fact, some members believe that they currently have more opportunity for input and are getting faster results now that the larger carriers have left.

The loss of the four members does not signal the end of the relationship between them and the 217 remaining members of ATAC. There are a large number of issues such as fuel excise taxes, travellers’ security charges, and many others where there is common ground. ATAC hopes to continue working with the four carriers in a collaborative fashion.

And, the loss of revenue was not as severe as was widely reported.

Skrobica clarified the situation to me by explaining that the loss of the four carriers represented half of the membership revenue, but certainly not half of the association’s revenue. “We have other sources of revenue besides membership fees,” explains Skrobica. “What we lost was substantially less than half of our revenue.”

The association has taken steps to tighten its expenditures and Skrobica says that he has a business plan that “at least breaks even” for the upcoming year. “Sometimes you have to shrink before you grow again,” he says.

Canadian aviation definitely needs a strong ATAC and it deserves our support in its efforts now and in the foreseeable future.


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