Four points to ponder

Alexandre de Juniac,  Director General and CEO, IATA

Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, IATA

Let me share some thoughts on what I see as the Middle East and North Afria (MENA) regions’ four top issues. 

The airport infrastructure in MENA demonstrates the foresight of governments wanting to capture aviation’s economic and social benefits. To keep this competitive advantage, continuous consultation is needed so that capital expenditure aligns industry growth, required service levels and acceptable costs. 

I will also sound a note of caution on infrastructure privatization. Saudi Arabia has announced privatization plans for 27 airports. Despite many privatizations around the world we have not seen any examples of airport privatization that have truly met expectations. Whatever be the ownership structure, airlines need airports with sufficient capacity and efficient and technically excellent operations. 

Even more urgent is the need to modernize air traffic management in the Gulf. A recent study calculates average delays in the Gulf at 29 minutes with the potential to double by 2025. More expensive technology is not the solution. Regional cooperation is. 

There has been an unprecedented rise in taxes and charges across the region — about $700 million in extra costs over 2015. The majority of that is from passenger facility charges. A low cost structure is a key component of the region’s success. 

Another trend that we must reverse is the proliferation of disparate consumer protection regulations. Regulators in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Jordan and the Arab Civil Aviation Commission are in various stages of activity in this regard. 

The fourth item, security, may well be the most challenging. It is a global issue. There are risks and challenges — insider threats, landside exposure at airports, overflight of conflict zones, and cyber security. Efficient airport checkpoints are important. 

Our need for cost-efficient infrastructure to meet demand, for reasonable taxation, for the implementation of global standards and for security is in no way selfish. 

Yes, it will help our business. But the bigger picture is the contribution that safe, secure, efficient and sustainable air transport makes to the welfare of nations. The business of freedom makes people’s lives better. Nothing should stand in the way of its success!  

Edited excerpts from a speech at the AGM of Arab Air Carriers’ Organisation in Morocco.

Gift of climate consensus

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu,  President, International Civil Aviation Organization

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President, International Civil Aviation Organization

In the face of carbon emission and climate change challenges, one gift which we can all be grateful is the very clear testament to realistic climate progress recently agreed to by the many diverse players in the international air transport sector. 

In September, no fewer than 191 governments came together at the Montreal headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to iron out the final points of a new CO2 emissions solution for international flights. 

The basic purpose of this global measure is to help aviation mitigate its CO2 emissions that are not already being reduced through new technologies, streamlined operations and improved infrastructure. 

Considered an impossible goal by many, especially given the wide-ranging variance in the capabilities and ambitions of the countries that needed to find common ground on it, the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), presented numerous diplomatic challenges. 

The ultimate agreement was further complicated by the fact that private sector organizations representing airlines, airports and many other air transport interests needed to be brought on board with its approach, including a wide range of non-governmental organizations. As a result of the clear motivation on behalf of these disparate parties to take meaningful climate action, an effective solution was arrived at. 

The CORSIA approach is both flexible and pragmatic. It is also a world first for any major industry sector and demonstrates that sufficient leadership and political will does exist today at the national and global levels to safeguard our environment. 

The air transport sector is currently responsible for roughly 1.3 per cent of annual man-made CO2 emissions. While that percentage may seem small, governments, airlines and others clearly recognize that it cannot double in lockstep with the number of flights our network manages. 

The new CORSIA solution will now help to complement the wide ranging efforts on emissions reductions that the aviation sector is already pursuing, and that have helped modern aircraft become 80 per cent more fuel efficient than the first commercial jets. 

It’s my hope that aviation’s gift of climate consensus will become a helpful example for other industries in the years ahead, and lead to further and concrete progress on reining in our collective emissions.