Industry association calls for shorter events and more freedom in the design of chalets and exhibition space

US industry leaders are calling on major air shows to cut participation fees and adopt more customer-friendly policies, but are backing off a demand to consolidate at least a few of the smaller yearly events.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), a US-based advocacy group, has contacted organisers of the four largest venues - Dubai, Farnborough, Paris and Singapore - saying US companies want more freedom to design their exhibit and chalet presence, fewer trade exhibit days at each show and competition among service providers such as transport and catering.

The demands stem partly from the spiralling cost of participating in a growing field of regional and international air shows, but also reflect the declining value of such events as marketing tools, says John Douglass, AIA president and chief executive. Industry consolidation and longer product cycle times means companies have fewer new products to display.

"Do you really get anything out of flying a 30-year-old aircraft?" asks Joel Johnson, AIA's vice-president for international relations.

Douglass says air shows are now seen as valuable networking events rather than deal-making centres or critical marketing events, which reduces the value of exhibition space and flying demonstrations.

A new AIA survey shows that large and mid-size US companies expect to freeze or reduce corporate presence at such venues over the next few years. The US government is expected to follow suit, apart from an expected strong showing at Farnborough in return for UK backing in Iraq.

There are signs that air show organisers have got the AIA's message. Douglass says the Paris air show has agreed to reduce the 2005 event from nine to seven days.

Source: Flight International