Dear AGIFORS Members and Friends,
Most importantly, I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. As we continue to navigate through this unprecedented situation, I know many of you are wondering about how this pandemic might affect AGIFORS, both now and in the future. Unfortunately, in many instances, the answer is simply “we don’t know yet.” However, I will try my best to answer some of the questions that I know you must have.
Study Group Meetings
As many of you already know, we have had to cancel all our Study Group meetings this spring. We were excited to once again have a full set of meetings around the world. Planning for Crew Management in Istanbul (hosted by Turkish Airlines), Revenue Management in Helsinki (hosted by Finnair) SSP in Dallas/Fort Worth and the Airline Operations/Aircraft Maintenance joint meeting in Oman (hosted by Oman Air) were well underway when we had to make the decision to cancel. At this time, for a variety of reasons, we are not planning to reschedule them but will skip them this year and resume them as usual in Spring 2021. Nonetheless, as an alternative, we are exploring hosting virtual meetings to replace this year’s physical meetings; more on that later in this letter.
The good news is that all the host airlines agreed to remain as hosts next year as well as all the hotels. Therefore, we will still be going to those locations, albeit in 2021. New dates will be announced later this year. The meetings are always interesting and informative but should be especially so next year as we talk about how we went about winding-down our respective airlines and how we addressed (and continue to address) issues with ramping back up. We look forward to seeing you all next year.
Many thanks go to all the study group chairs, Marcel Sol (QR), Samuel Rosat (Ivado Labs), Virginie Lurkin (Eindhoven), Hunkar Toyoglu (McKinsey), Cumhur Gelogullari (AA), Yuxi Xiao (AA), Michael Irrgang (Boeing), Judith Semar (LH), Rod Tjoelker (Boeing) and Mei Zhang (AA), for all their hard work on first organizing and then canceling the meetings.
As I write this letter, we are still planning to hold the 60th Annual Symposium as scheduled from 14 to 17 September in Toulouse, France with Air France/KLM and Airbus as our hosts. AGIFORS was founded in 1960 by Air France and KLM, among others, and the first annual symposium was held in the south of France, so we are looking forward to celebrating our 60th birthday at the same location hosted by our founders. That said, while we are going to continue to proceed with our planning, we will follow the lead of governments and public health experts to determine if it is safe and appropriate to meet. I cannot emphasize this enough – the health and safety of our members and our entire global community is our number one priority and that will be our guiding principle as we decide if and when to hold the conference. Semi Gabteni (OpenAirlines) and Rodrigo Acuna-Agost (Amadeus) will be sending out updates as they become available.
Anna Valicek Competition and Ken Wang Scholar Program
We are also proceeding with both the Anna Valicek Competition and the Ken Wang Scholar program. This will happen even if the symposium is cancelled. Traditionally, the two Anna Valicek finalists present their papers at the symposium. While we hope that will be possible this year, we will make alternative arrangements if necessary, to select the Silver and Bronze medals this year. Be on the lookout for the official announcement from our competition director, Richard Cléaz-Savoyen (AC), soon.
While we are also looking forward to announcing our first Ken Wang Scholars at the symposium, regardless of what the future holds, we will be selecting two recipients this year. More on that to come from Dr. Laurie Garrow (Georgia Tech).
Virtual Study Group Meetings
As we cannot meet in person this year, we are exploring the possibility of holding a virtual conference. Airline Operations and Maintenance Operations are taking the lead in organizing one and working out the technical and practical logistics. We are still working on the challenges of presenting to a globally dispersed audience in multiple time zones while keeping the intimacy of live interactions and selecting the best technology to use. More details will be posted on our website (agifors.org) as soon as they are available. If you are interested in participating or helping to organize it, please contact the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If successful and there is enough interest, we may expand the concept to other groups.
This year we will also be holding elections for the Council. Every Council member is elected for a three-year term with the new Council taking office immediately on the conclusion of the annual symposium. Later this year, we will be electing seven new officers to run our organization. Officers are elected to the Council as a whole and must include at least four airline employees. At the first council meeting, the new council will select the president, treasurer and all other positions from those elected. A request for nominations will be issued soon. If you have been a member for at least five years, we hope you consider running.
Financial Impact on AGIFORS
Fortunately, we entered this year with a good financial reserve. As an all-volunteer organization, our overhead costs are minimal. Moreover, as a non-profit, we run our meetings with the goal of breaking even. As the extent of the pandemic became clear, we were able to cancel our Spring meetings before we incurred any significant non-refundable costs. In addition, the hotel sites have worked with us to apply any deposits we may have already made to next year’s meetings. Thanks to the hard work of our Treasurer, Eric Ruhlin (UA), and all the Study Group chairs, the financial impact on AGIFORS has been manageable.
In closing, I would just like to acknowledge that this is a devastating situation for so many people across the world and for the airline industry. Never in my lifetime (and I was born at the dawn of the jet age) have so few people in America flown on any given day as they did this week, and for the first time since the Wright brothers, no one anywhere in the US was building a commercial airplane. Nonetheless, I know we will recover and find ways to once again succeed. We are in the business of Connecting the World (or Uniting the World, according to my friends in Chicago) and before long people will start flying again. As the industry reboots itself, new problems (as well as all the old ones) will need to be solved and the AGIFORS community is ideally positioned to address them. I do not know when that will happen, but I do know this – following the directives of our public health experts is paramount. So please continue to stay at home as much as possible, always practice social distancing and frequently wash your hands. Most importantly, it saves lives. But secondarily, it will help us get back to doing the things that we love to do sooner rather than later. I can’t wait to get to the other side of this and welcome everyone again at our annual meetings and symposium and to hear all the innovative ways we are helping with the industry’s recovery.
David M. Foster
Delta Air Lines
President – AGIFORS