To Australia and Back in 5 Days

Airports and airlines from around the world flock Down Under for speed dating

By Kevan Hoffman

Published September 30, 2019

Read Time: 2 mins


ADELAIDE, Australia – There’s no halftime show or touchdown celebrations, but many in the aviation industry would argue that the World Routes Conference carries just as much importance as the Super Bowl.

And if that means spending nearly as much time in the air getting there – 21 hours, not including layovers – as we do on the ground, it’s well worth it.

Walking through the 240,000 square feet of convention space – more than four football fields – with more than 100 exhibitor booths and meeting chalets last week in Adelaide, it’s easy to see why. World Routes is by far the largest air service development conference of its kind, a chance for airports and regional marketing organizations to make their pitch for coveted nonstop service.

This year’s conference attracted more than 3,000 delegates taking part in 13,000 face-to-face meetings over three days. Think of it as speed dating for airports and airlines. Since 1995, the conference offers a unique chance to meet and discuss opportunities for new and expanded air service. Airports and destination marketing organizations often spend months preparing.

Of the more than 275 airports in attendance, nearly 40 American airports participated including fellow mid-sized airports Austin, Indianapolis, Kansas City and San Antonio, among others. Many airports have elaborate booths with events to pull passersby in – Copenhagen, Denmark offered a full service, free juice bar; Busan, South Korea offered an interactive, simulated tour of the city; and Las Vegas, of course, brought showgirls.

More than 13,000 face-to-face meetings took place between airline and airport representatives at this year’s conference. (Photo courtesy of UBM)

So what do we get by traveling all that way?

While new route agreements are not typically finalized at these conferences, they serve a key function in the air service process – from sharing valuable market insights to building relationships with senior airline decision makers to ensure the market opportunities in Pittsburgh match the needs of airlines.

More specifically for example, our talks with Condor Airlines about nonstop service to Germany began at World Routes in Durban, South Africa in 2015 and substantially concluded at the conference in Chengdu, China in 2016. Condor’s first nonstop flight arrived in 2017.

Pittsburgh, Australia?

Adelaide itself, home to about 1.3 million people, reminded me somewhat like Pittsburgh in a way with its centralized downtown and green spaces. Carnegie Mellon University even has a small branch campus there. Next year we’ll be headed to Milan, Italy, for the conference but for now, goodbye to the land Down Under.

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