Aviation capital Lisbon: our takeaways from World Aviation Festival 2023 

The extraordinarily balmy weather and the exceptional location of the event’s venue, on the banks of the river Tejo, were undoubtedly two big pluses of the 2023 edition of World Aviation Festival, which took place in Lisbon, Portugal, on September 26-28, 2023. 

The Portuguese capital was the setting for this major annual conference and trade show, which gathered some 5,000 airline industry professionals eager to learn, do deals and, just as importantly, connect with each other. 

Besides being a meeting point to make connections and get insights from some of the most prominent industry leaders, the World Aviation Festival is also a large airline technology showroom. 

The exhibition area, which included multiple keynote theaters, had two full large pavilions hosting a very broad array of tech firms, ranging from giants such as Google and Microsoft to small super-focused startups, pitching solutions that could help airline executives to squeeze extra efficiency gains, whether on the revenue or cost-reduction side of the equation. 

ACI Director General, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, speaking at World Aviation Festival

Prominent industry leaders present at the Festival included the CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Luis Gallego, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General, Willie Walsh, and his counterpart at Airports Council International (ACI), Luis Felipe de Oliveira, They were united in confirming that global passenger traffic is close to recovering its 2019 levels, as the industry is preparing to face its next existential challenge: decarbonization. 

Both the keynote program and the contents of the exhibition reflected this fact. 

An AeroTime team was present and correct in Lisbon, speaking with a diverse mix of aviation executives and entrepreneurs to take the pulse of the industry. Here are some of our highlights: 

We were among the small group of journalists hosted by Emirates CEO, Tim Clark, who engaged in a frank and straightforward Q&A session and provided a handful of insights about the Dubai-based giant and its plans

Sir Tim Clark had a private Q&A session with a reduced number of aviation journalists, AeroTime was there

And while we’re discussing the Middle East, we also learned directly from Tony Douglas some additional details about Riyadh Air, the new Saudi flag carrier. 

In case you were wondering, the Middle East is not about to run out of airport capacity any time soon. Dubai International Airport (DXB) could take in another 20 million passengers per year before reaching its theoretical capacity, as confirmed to AeroTime by its CEO, Paul Griffiths. 

Transavia’s Marcel de Nooijer, is another CEO who outlined the plans of the airline he leads in an exclusive interview with AeroTime, as did Jude Bricker, CEO of US leisure carrier Sun Country Airlines, in a separate interview

SAS newly appointed CCO, Paul Verhagen, commented on the ongoing restructuring of the Scandinavian airline (that was before it was announced, on October 3, 2023, that SAS would see a major reshuffle of its capital structure, bringing it into Air France-KLM’s orbit) 

IAG Group Head Sustainability, Jonathon Counsell, in turn, shared his insights about the way this large and complex airline group is approaching the sustainability challenge

Fuel (and emissions) saving technology is also important in ground operations, as our correspondent learned from the representatives of WheelTug, a Czech firm which had one of the most eye-catching booths at the show, complete with a mini airport and aircraft scale models. 

And at World Aviation Festival there were also some companies, such as Germany-based Flyv and Dutch electric aircraft startup Maeve. They aim to transform the way we fly completely, while lowering emissions or eliminating them altogether, with a new generation of clean-sheet electric aircraft, which, in turn, enable new business models for air travel. 

Last but not least, to wrap-up World Aviation Festival an epic “Battle of the Apps” saw some of the world’s largest airlines pitching their mobile apps to a jury of industry experts. Who won the title to the world’s best airline app? After being assessed on a number of parameters, the jury, this distinction went to United Airlines.  

The Battle of the Apps at World Aviation Festival

See you in Amsterdam for World Aviation Festival 2024! 

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