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Research profile: Professor Tae Oum wants to improve airport efficiency and open up the skies

Tagged: Research, Faculty

Professor Tae Oum wants to change the way we think about air travel. Sauder’s UPS Foundation Chair in Transport and Logistics is conducting research focusing on improving the efficiency of airports and liberalizing the skies.


Oum is well known in his field for his academic and applied work that has dramatically changed the way we think about air travel. As chairman of the Air Transport Research Society (ATRS), he knows this business well as he interacts with a number of private, national, and international airport, airlines and regulatory agencies.

Unlike airlines, which usually face competition from other airlines, many airports are publicly owned monopolies thus there are less natural market pressures on them to improve efficiency or reduce costs. Because of their unique status, Oum and his colleagues in the ATRS have been developing efficiency benchmarks for airports that can then be used to improve efficiency through best practices.

“There is something that academics can do to improve the situation,” he says. “We can collect data that tells the world which airports are managed well and why, then provide suggestions on how airports can become more efficient."

Oum’s second area of research involves international air policy and specifically the liberalization of international air travel.

Currently, most countries negotiate individual bilateral agreements that govern air travel between two countries, eg which airlines can fly which routes and how often. Oum points out that this system is inefficient because every country is obliged to negotiate a separate agreement with every other country. Furthermore, these agreements may be based on political not market pressures resulting in huge loss of business in the tourism, foreign investment and international trade sectors.

Oum advocates the liberalization of international air transport through so-called Open Skies agreements. These agreements aim to create free-market environments for the airline industry that allow airlines to operate freely regardless of their country of origin. As countries and regions adopt Open Skies agreements, airlines become more efficient and ultimately drive down costs for consumers.

“I would like to see bilateral agreements replaced by more inclusive and comprehensive de-regulation,” notes Oum. “In the short term, continental liberalization would be an ideal goal and the longer term goal would be to move towards something like the WTO framework for air transportation similarly as the international IT and telecommunications sector was able to do via the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which is being government by WTO.”

Visit Professor Oum's profile for more information about his research.