CANSO CEO Series: Time and evolution


Conor Mullan, Managing Director of Think Research, CANSO Executive Committee Associate Member Representative and CANSO CEO Series host, shares what to expect from the latest episodes with CANSO Associate Members.

During 2020 I had the pleasure of speaking to eight ANSP CEOs as part of the CANSO Global Conversations: CEO Series. The aim of the live and recorded sessions was to ask them how they were coping with the pandemic; to understand how it was impacting their operational and investment plans; and to make some small contribution to address the fact that we couldn’t all meet up and chat like we normally would. 

Over the course of the first months of 2021, I spoke with a range of Associate Members, from the small (<50 employees) to the large (over 80,000), and from the long standing (over 100 years old) to the new entrants (not yet a decade old). Aside from wishing to highlight the diversity of the CANSO Associate Member community, we wanted to get a range of views because for me what made the initial sessions with Full Members so interesting was the range of approaches taken across ANSPs and also their common ground. 

We asked Associate Member CEOs the same five questions we asked the Full Member CEOs, focusing on reflections of the last year and outlook for the year ahead.  As with the Full Member sessions, a few things stood out.

  • Time and evolution.  When we spoke to the Full Members, we were still in the uncertainty zone.  Many were still in the first wave, some were heading for a second, and the vaccine developments were not yet mature. Whilst the current regional and global situation is still very variable, time has afforded many of the Associates a better outlook compared to last summer. We are riding a rollercoaster, not surfing a wave, and that both helps and hinders our planning. But there is no doubt it shapes our approach. 
  • Geography. For the most part, the Full Members were dealing with national level issues and international coordination efforts. For many of the Associate Members their operations are spread across countries and continents. Operational and business strategies had to vary from country to country, adding to the complexity. 
  • Pent Up Demand. That phrase has been used for over six months now as a beacon of hope.  Airlines and ANSPs hope that a year of not travelling has instilled in the public a massive desire to get flying at the first opportunity. The same feeling is within the Associate Members. Unsurprisingly more commercially minded, the feeling that now is the time to invest is incredibly strong. The urge among Associates to form partnerships, deploy new technologies, invest in the future is clear (or maybe we are just less shy about marketing!). 
  • Hope. Maybe it’s timing, maybe it’s the audience, but the tone is definitely different. Last year the main message was one of resilience. We needed to stick together and get through this. That remains but the passing of time and advances in vaccine science have led to more of us daring to hope. 
  • Caution. Yes there is positivity among the members but if we have learned one thing it’s that this is not a passing phase. Whilst we may look to some sort of industry recovery later this year, we remain vulnerable. More transformational measures are needed to build long term sustainability across the air traffic domain.  This is unlikely to be the last crisis we will face. 

I have no doubt that our collective thoughts and approaches will change over the course of 2021. If you’d like to hear more from CANSO members, or share your own perspective, please do let us know.