Road to Recovery
Crisis as a catalyst for change
Scott Collier, Vice President Customer & Terminal Services at Toronto Pearson International Airport, reflects on how COVID-19 could be a catalyst for a new consumer-centric view of the future in aviation. Our Podcast interview with Scott appears in full below.
Although traffic and business at Toronto Pearson International is down by over -90%, the commercial management team at Canada’s largest airport continues to plan both short and long term.
Reflecting on current conditions, Vice President Customer & Terminal Services Scott Collier says: “Airport people are extraordinarily resilient. This has been devastating for the commercial side of the operation but people have stayed focused on the job at hand.
“Next we’ll start to pivot and consider how we restart this industry again. It won‘t snap back straight away but we are working on strategies that help us bounce back. We are asking internally and with our partners how we can do this in stages, alongside expectations of social distancing and safety; what will the cadence around openings be?
“In society people are wondering what is next and when things will open up again. How are we set up for exit? How do we grow our way out of the problem?”
Scott Collier: The crisis can be the wake-up calls the industry needs
Toronto Pearson has some big strategic projects in the pipeline, which will likely be deferred and take longer to complete. “People in the industry are very rational,” says Collier. “We are all in the same boat together. The growth plans that were on the table before are still valid. Airports will still be here, airlines too, and people will want to travel. We do have to be thoughtful about how we get there, but the big strategic projects that are in play will still go forward. And these are supported by our partners.”
These are unprecedented times, notes Collier, and it would be wrong to assume that things will not change as a result – but change in how our industry works has been needed for some time, he says. Importantly from an industry perspective, the view that consumers should come first in the world of airports has been accelerated amid COVID-19. For the past five years and more, Toronto Pearson has been on a journey to put the consumer at the heart of its “decision tree” (as reported in a special Moodie Davitt Spotlight Series ezine published in January).
Collier says that the crisis could be the wake-up call that the wider aviation industry needs to think differently about the end consumer.
“Isn’t it interesting that with COVID-19, the industry is now more interested than ever before in the welfare of our passengers coming through, in arrivals, departures, screening and so on?
Toronto Pearson has taken steps to reinvigorate its commercial agreements; with Dufry/Hudson, a Joint Management Committee aims to deepen collaboration between the partners as part of their latest contract
“We are finally as an industry going to look at the consumer value chain across the sector and ask how we should be engaging them getting on or off the plane, or travelling through the airport. Couldn’t a new [consumer-centred] approach mean we become not just a good industry, but a great industry?
“There could be an impetus now to put technology in place so we don’t torture our passengers as they go through our processes, and those conversations are happening now. There is recognition from all partners at the airport that we should do things differently. If we do even half of the things we are talking about, it will be a much better place for all the players in aviation.”
Until now, he adds, we have encouraged travellers to tolerate poor service standards. “Maybe it’s time for the industry to have some honest conversations with each other; we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard as we have always compromised. There is an interesting opportunity in front of us. Doing more of the same isn’t the solution. I’m hopeful things will change and that is the approach we want to take.”
Overall, Collier remains upbeat about the future, even as business is on the floor. People will want to travel again, will want to shop, eat and drink at the airport, he says.
“We live in a consumer-oriented society and we do something very special that consumers want. We can do business better than before. Over the long-term I’d put my money on this industry in a heartbeat.”
The Moodie Davitt eZine
Issue 279 | 4 May 2020
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