Report on activity and sustainable development 2020

Interview with Edward Arkwright, Deputy CEO at Groupe ADP

Chapter 2. Anticipate

Interview with Edward Arkwright, Deputy CEO at Groupe ADP


Groupe ADP Deputy CEO Edward Arkwright believes that tomorrow’s airports will be smarter, safer and more sustainable. The health crisis has simply accelerated the transformational changes and innovations already underway at Groupe ADP, which confirmed its market leading status in 2020.

Edward Arkwright, 

Deputy CEO at Groupe ADP

Has the health crisis accelerated the process of Groupe ADP transitioning to a new airport model?

We were already well into this transformational change process before Covid-19, but the crisis has proved a powerful catalyst in forcing us to accelerate the pace of change in response to the twin challenges of health and the environment. Like every sector of the aviation industry, Groupe ADP is totally focused on the future. We are convinced that it is perfectly possible to offer an airport model that reconciles robust operational procedures with demanding health requirements, environmental responsibility and the rediscovered pleasure of travel.

What is the Group’s vision for attracting travellers to return and achieve a sustainable recovery?

Our goal is to welcome passengers from all over the world to an airport that is Smarter, Safer and more Sustainable. From the passenger perspective,
a Smart Airport means a simpler and smoother pathway facilitated – of course – by digital technology, but also new contactless interfaces that use biometrics (including facial recognition), artificial intelligence and big data. A Safer Airport means a platform that incorporates today’s new health requirements for the long term, alongside current levels of security controls and safety standards for facilities and equipment. In responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic, Groupe ADP has – as always – taken action at the earliest opportunity by introducing a series of health initiatives, rather than waiting until such measures become mandatory. In the post-pandemic world, some of these processes and procedures are likely to remain permanently. Our commitment to innovation remains undiminished. For example, we are currently experimenting with tech solutions developed by the winning startups of the Safe Travel Challenge with the aim of building a new and permanent framework of trust for travellers, just as we did post 9/11 by introducing more stringent security checks.

Lastly, a Sustainable Airport means one that imposes the smallest-possible ecological footprint, and we are addressing this ambition with our aim to achieve carbon neutrality in Paris by 2030.

There can be no robust and sustainable recovery if air transport does not lead by example on environmental issues.

But will these assurances be sufficient in the post-Covid world?

Right now, the crucial thing is to restore air connections and build an international framework of trust around travel, and airline-led initiatives like health passports can definitely help to do that.

But the crisis has also highlighted just how important climate change has become in the minds of travellers, and how high expectations now are around this issue. There can be no robust and sustainable recovery if air transport does not lead by example on environmental issues. In other words, decarbonised aviation will become an essential part of the new contract of trust we must establish with the general public and all our stakeholders. Our airports must play their full part in the greening of aviation, and we have committed to do exactly that in our Airports for Trust charter, which sets out of our ambition to lead by example and promote cooperation around social and environmental responsibility. The government recovery plan for the French aviation industry includes the advent of hydrogen-powered aircraft, and we as a Group are proud and determined to contribute to this new vision of aviation.

How have you handled the employment-related impacts of the crisis on your employees?

Like the rest of our industry, we have expanded on the basis of 50 years of traffic growth that doubled world-wide every 15 years or so on average. We must now learn to deal with a situation in which we are unlikely to see growth on that scale going forward, especially in Europe, and must therefore adapt our financial and employment model accordingly. Our priority is to safeguard the company for the long term and protect its skills, at the same time as avoiding compulsory redundancies. We have already begun that process, and at the end of 2020 signed a collective severance agreement paving the way for
1,500 voluntary redundancies out of the ADP SA parent company workforce of 6,300. Under the terms of the agreement, 700 of those jobs will be lost.

What do you see as your strengths in preparing for the future?

Together with TAV Airports and our new acquisition GMR Airports, we are now one of the world’s leading airport networks, and are structured around three major airport families. The health crisis has highlighted the relevance of our “One Group” model, which encourages a more effective organisational structure and closer integration of expertise and business lines. Even in a year as challenging as 2020, we have demonstrated our agility and ability to work in a coordinated and mutually supportive way thanks to the huge commitment of our airport community worldwide. Under less challenging trading conditions, this model will continue to be a very strong asset, and the new working methods introduced and embraced in 2020 will remain, together with the synergies developed during the year and a commitment to best practice sharing. We are also a multi-expert airport operator, and that is another factor in our resilience. The fact that airfreight performed better than passenger traffic in 2020 is another powerful strength we know we can rely on going forward.