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Day 1 Report

Wednesday 29 March

The first major event in ERA’s calendar is its spring Regional Airline Conference, which this year came to the Danish capital of Copenhagen. The 2017 event was more popular than ever with a record-breaking number of more than 230 registrations.

Topical agenda
The event opened on the morning of 29 March with an exclusive Airline and Airport CEOs’ breakfast, at which senior executives from European aviation companies networked with their peers and the gathered European media. The meeting for CEOs, which followed, included briefings on issues affecting their businesses and strategies. In an extremely topical presentation on the day the UK triggered Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the EU, David Kendrick from the UK Civil Aviation Authority spoke about plans for the future of aviation in Europe following Brexit. Duncan Alexander from Cognizant then gave a strategic overview of new European data protection regulations and the implications for airlines.

The event then kicked off in earnest with a networking lunch where all delegates got together, ready for the first conference session.

Security matters
The opening topic on the agenda at the Regional Airline Conference was aviation security. The security landscape is constantly changing – only last week, new restrictions on electronic devices were introduced – demonstrating how the industry must stay one step ahead of threats. Joanna Kolatsis of law firm Hill Dickinson chaired this first conference session, bringing her legal perspective to the issue of security. She encouraged her panel to offer practical advice to delegates, which David Ryder of ACI Europe certainly provided. With last year’s terrorist attacks on Brussels and Istanbul Ataturk airports, airport security is particularly in the spotlight. Ryder advised that airports should avoid reacting to the last security incident, and instead introduce future-proof technology and processes that respond to current known as well as unknown threats. Tim Grant, Head of Security Assistance at MedAire used his military experience to give an expert view on keeping staff secure when working in remote locations. He emphasised the importance of understanding the likelihood and impact of risks and having a solid threat management programme in place. The staff also need to take the threats seriously and be aware of the ways you are mitigating them.

Finally, Matthew Finn, Managing Director of security consultancy AUGMENTIQ encouraged the audience to consider how prepared their businesses are for unexpected security threats. Matthew explained that any airline can be a potential target, no matter how big or small the operator, and that it isn’t enough for a company to just be compliant. To truly make your business secure, risk assessments should be up-to-date, and security should be carefully considered at the top levels of the company. Engaging an external party who will have an impartial and objective view of the issues can also be beneficial, and it is of course important to establish and foster the security culture within the company. This session certainly left delegates with a lot to consider and discuss during the coffee break.

Environmental debate
The environment is high on the current agenda for the aviation industry with recent developments on environmental schemes, including ICAO’s CORSIA and the EU ETS. Andrew Kelly of ASL Airlines Ireland, who has previously represented ERA member airlines at EC hearings on the ETS, had an excellent background to chair the second session of the day. Beginning the debate was outspoken environmental campaigner Jeff Gazzard who argued that CORSIA will not be an effective way of actually reducing emissions. Gazzard stated that “emissions growth needs to be dealt with” and that the industry still needed to do much more. Michael Gill, Executive Director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) discussed a variety of different environmental measures, such as new technology, operational measures, infrastructure development and alternative fuels as well as the ICAO agreement, and stressed the need to ensure common global standards rather than separate schemes in different parts of the world. “Constructive engagement between the industry and NGOs is essential”, Gill remarked.

Gill was followed by Laurence Graff of European Commission’s DG CLIMA, who gave a regulatory perspective and outlined developments with the EU ETS and CORSIA: “We have a lot on our plate to ensure CORSIA delivers”, Graff emphasised. This lively and thought-provoking session gave the audience a valuable insight into the different perspectives in the environmental debate.

Delegates then enjoyed time to network with colleagues old and new at the cocktail reception after an interesting first day of topical debate at the ERA Regional Airline Conference.