Star Travel guy takes in International Air convention in steamy Singapore
Star Travel columnist/reporter Bert Archer files this report from overseas...
SINGAPORE -- Did you know that every year, airlines that collectively represent 93 per cent of the world’s air traffic all get together in some exotic locale to discuss the issues of the day and plan for the future?
Until quite recently, I had no idea. And when I heard, I had visions of evil corporate backroom shenanigans, conspiracies on the boil to come up with new fees (“Oh, you want air with that oxygen mask? That’ll be $12. Sorry, credit card only") and ways to genetically engineer a new race of travellers with tiny little legs so they can push the seats even closer together.
It sounded like fun.
So I decided to take a look for myself this year, and popped into the 67th annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association, which just wrapped up Tuesday night.
It was many things, this IATA shindig where scores of CEOs from the world of aviation and other related fields – the heads of both the TSA and INTERPOL were here, too, But I was a little disappointed when I was told between sessions discussing aviation in the age of terror, and how Japan is recovering from their triplex disasters in March that there were issues the CEOs weren’t even allowed to mention to each other when they met or chatted. Things like prices.
They did talk though, and it seems they meet quite often at various events around the world, and one of the biggest discoveries I made here is that our big CEO, Air Canada’s Calin Rovinescu, seems like big man on campus here. I wasn’t privy to how they spent their after-hours here, in the rooftop bars of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, where everyone stayed (see photo), or at Clarke Quay with its riverwalk hangouts, but for some reason, Rovinescu (see photo) couldn’t walk by a fellow chief executive without getting his shoulder punched, his hand pumped, or being greeted with various corporate bigwig versions of “Dude!” He gave as good as he got, and spent much of his time here striding around the cavernous convention halls in a cloud of collegiality. I felt popular by association.
The place was also riddled with stealth Canadians, including IATA’s director of communications, Anthony Concil, who grew up in Sault Ste Marie, Singapore Airlines’ vice president of public affairs Nicholas Ionides, who’s from the GTA, and John Belcher, chairman and CEO of ARINC , one of the world’s largest aviation technology companies, an Ontario boy who went to U of O and Queen’s. NAV Canada, the company that runs our air traffic control, won the award for the world’s best air navigation service for the second year in a row. So, all in all, it was quite the Canuckathon here in Singapore.
There were any number of serious things discussed, including IATA’s downgrading of its forecast for the collective profitability of the world’s airlines from $8.6 billion to $4 billion, and the EU’s recent decision to charge every airline that flies through its airspace for its carbon emissions (people here didn’t like that). Check in on the Thursday travel sections over the next couple of weeks, where I’ll be writing about a few of them.
I’m still a little down about the lack of high-level corporate plotting and conniving, though. Maybe I should give Davos a try.
Thanks for that, Bert. I'll be back in the saddle, as it were, on Thursday with a report on Santa Monica and California's tourism reception in downtown Toronto on Tuesday night. Lots of new stuff to report on California, for sure...