“One thing is certain, as aviation strives to recover and be prepared for our post-pandemic operating environment, it makes great sense for the industry’s players to work collectively to help smooth the path ahead.”
“Council Representatives are a powerful resource for SITA, providing access to aviation expertise in every corner of the globe. ”
“Throughout 2020, as the pandemic’s impact on aviation unfolded, the Council proved to be a barometer of the industry’s activity, exposure and response.”
“SITA’s initial and ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates its role as a community player. SITA immediately collaborated with customers to fulfill their new requirements.”
“The Council was pleased to see SITA teams readily engaging with the community to understand the industry’s new drivers, both during the crisis and in the post-pandemic world to come.”
A community response to the new needs of aviation
An extaordinary year
I was honored to be elected President of the SITA Council at the end of 2020, having joined the Council in June 2016.
I would like to extend my thanks, both personally and on behalf of all Council Representatives, to our previous President, Ashish Jain, whose commitment and leadership over the past two years was greatly appreciated.
2020 was an exceptionally bleak year for our industry. The traffic and passenger figures reported by SITA and IATA for the year would have been simply unimaginable prior to the pandemic. See the CEO Report.
Figures from industry aviation body CAPA are not dissimilar, recording a fall in global capacity to around one tenth of its previous level during 2020. Domestic operations are forecast to pick up sooner than the rebound in international travel, though they will also be variable.
But one thing is certain, as aviation strives to recover and be prepared for our post-pandemic operating environment, it makes great sense for the industry’s players to work collectively to help smooth the path ahead.
The SITA Council as a barometer of industry activity
The SITA Council embodies such a collective approach. Council Representatives are a powerful resource for SITA, providing access to aviation expertise in every corner of the globe.
Throughout 2020, as the pandemic’s impact on aviation unfolded, the Council proved to be a barometer of the industry’s activity, exposure and response.
As passenger volumes collapsed, the organizations of each of us on the Council, needed to make historic changes to respond to the economic fallout from COVID-19.
Our ability to understand the challenges and to represent the industry have never been of greater value to SITA and, in turn, SITA’s customers. Our Representatives offer deep experience and insights into the responses needed to help the community recover.
Rising to the challenges
SITA's initial and ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates its role as a community player. SITA collaborated with its customers in support of their new requirements and also communicated industry-wide guidance and advice on the technologies to adopt.
I was impressed to see how quickly SITA and the Council adapted to the new ways of working together. Like for so many of us, virtual meetings became the norm and, while there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction, we were able to get our business done effectively and efficiently.
This is in addition to SITA’s continuous efforts to maintain close relationships with customers and the activities of its Customer Advisory Boards in geographies across the world, which include the organizations of SITA Council Representatives.
As the CEO Report points out, SITA quickly switched focus to ensure business continuity and support of customers, underpinned by its global support infrastructure and SITA Global Services team.
On top of that, the Council was pleased to see SITA teams readily engaging with the community to understand the industry’s new drivers, both during the crisis and in the post-pandemic world to come.
New drivers for the future
It is clear that these industry drivers are here for the long-term. Airlines, airports and other air transport organizations must continue to develop a journey that is safe and seamless for passengers. As an industry, we have to be highly adaptable and cost efficient in our new operating environment.
For these reasons, the pandemic has focused attention in areas such as biometrics and mobile-driven travel, low-touch and contactless experiences, digital borders, and new cloud technologies. These drivers and technologies affect all of SITA’s Members.
It is appropriate that SITA’s response addresses the new needs and challenges that we face collectively, and that the experiences and understanding brought onboard by our Council Representatives plays an important part. We are a forum for capturing industry views and expertise in relation to industry needs, and we play a key role in sharing that knowledge with SITA.
Activities involving the Council
During 2020, in alignment with the Board, the Council approved the implementation of SimplySITA, having taken part in initiating this program just under two years earlier.
SimplySITA is a transformational program that simplifies and streamlines SITA’s business.
The Council believes that putting in place a new framework for the organization will open new opportunities for SITA to innovate and develop integrated solutions embracing communications and applications.
In turn, this will provide the air transport community with new solutions and models to support ever more cost-efficient and agile ways of working, as the Board Chair points out in his statement.
Owing to changes in Belgian Corporate law, certain approval authorities between the General Assembly, the Council and the Board needed to be reconsidered. The Council approved amendments to its role and powers in May 2020 and I am pleased that the Council will continue to play a key part in the Director nomination process and admission of new Members.
Furthermore, as set out in the Council President’s speech at the December Special General Assembly, the Council, together with the Board, agreed to jointly undertake a broader review of SITA’s governance. This was initiated in October of last year.
All Council Representatives were invited to provide input to this review through an online survey, which achieved a strong 82% response rate.
The work of the joint review concluded in early Q2 2021 and the recommendations were fully considered and approved, with some amendments, by the Council and the Board in April.
These three factors, SimplySITA, addressing the changes in Belgian Corporate law and the joint Governance Review, each resulted in recommendations that necessitate changes to the existing Articles of Association of SITA SC. The revised Articles will be presented for approval by the Members of SITA SC at a yet to be scheduled Extraordinary General Assembly.
Council Awards – innovation and support
Despite the pandemic, the Council Awards again took place. They drew as many as 30 entries, all of which truly impressed our Council Representatives.
Under a single, new category called ‘Supporting our customers through the COVID-19 crisis’, we judged entries for SITA’s support initiatives, project deliveries and implementations in 2020.
The many entries received are testament to SITA’s dedication to our industry as a community player, in good times and bad. Evaluating the submissions was no easy task and, after much deliberation, we decided to select joint winners.
One of them is a great example of how SITA adapted rapidly to help customers meet new pandemic health requirements.
It involves an innovative grass roots solution developed by the SITA Global Services India South team, allowing passengers in Mumbai International Airport to control check-in kiosks using their mobile phones.
The other joint winner is SITA’s Sydney Borders Practice team. The team helped governments in APAC, including Australia, to manage the complex task of implementing agile border responses and travel corridors during COVID-19.
The Council congratulates both teams, as well as every other team taking part in the awards. The quality of entries made this competition very difficult to judge.
Looking forward to recovery
Finally, let me conclude with a glance to the future. As I said, the recovery will take time and there are many challenges ahead, but we are on the right road in 2021.
The Council is committed to working with SITA as it develops its portfolio and innovates to help our industry face up to those challenges and rebuild the future of air travel.
SITA can be sure of the SITA Council’s full commitment to the continued representation of industry interests to the SITA Board and management. Our industry must work together to successfully navigate the road to recovery.
We offer grateful thanks to those whose term on the SITA Council ended in 2020 – and we welcome those new Representatives who took their place. See who they are.