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Ready for lift-off?

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Ready for lift-off? This year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), some 3,5-billion people and 55-million tonnes of cargo will travel safely by air over a global network of 51 000 routes. JACO DE KLERK discovers what is needed to develop this booming industry further.

The IATA points out that aviation’s role as a catalyst for economic growth is evident as goods to the value or some US$ 6 trillion (around R74 trillion) find their way to global markets via air transport. It’s no wonder that the Association has advocated for an even deeper partnership with governments, based on global standards.

“Aviation is built on partnerships and the relationship with governments is key,” explains Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO. “Airlines and governments are well aligned on safety, but in other areas of governmental responsibility – infrastructure, security, regulation, and the environment – there are opportunities for a deeper partnership.”

This call came in Tyler’s Report on the Air Transport Industry to the 71st IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit, which was held in Miami.

“For nations, connectivity is much more than a competitive advantage,” he continues. “It is an economic necessity, and aviation’s intangible benefits make it a force for good in the world. So there is a tremendous common interest with governments to support safe, efficient and sustainable global connectivity that only air transport can provide.” Tyler adds that, while there has been tremendous progress over the last few years, customers still see security and border controls as points of pain in their journeys.

“We must join forces to encourage governments to align on a risk-based approach, adopt global best practices, recognise equivalent measures by other governments, stop wasteful and paper-based processes, and make full use of available technology,” Tyler emphasises.

This is exactly why the IATA advocates for new regulations aligned with global standards. “Our message is that regulation needs to be smarter,” notes Tyler. “To start, the benefits of any regulation must outweigh its costs. It should be consistent with global standards, proportional, well-targeted, fair, and clear about what is expected.

“These common-sense principles are best achieved through a process of rigorous consultation that includes a focus on keeping the compliance burden to a minimum.”

More importantly, aviation can only deliver its significant social and economic benefits if it has adequate, cost-efficient infrastructure capacity to meet growing demand. “We seek to work in partnership with governments based on the global principles that they have agreed through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO),” says Tyler.

“Transparency and consultation will ensure that what is built matches business needs, at a price that is affordable and mutually beneficial.”

He adds that there are several critical infrastructure challenges where more alignment is needed. These include: finding a solution to expand airport capacity in the southeast of the United Kingdom, keeping costs at Hong Kong International Airport competitive as it funds construction of a third runway, improving efficiency in Chinese air-traffic management and addressing the high cost of fuel in Brazil and Africa.

This is important as aviation is vital to the African continent. “The great continent of Africa covers more than 30-million kilometres,” Tyler points out. “It is home to more than a billion people. It is host to some of the most diverse and challenging terrain to be found anywhere, and, between its growing cities lie some of the most remote and inaccessible communities on earth. It is air transport that binds this incredible continent together.”

He adds that aviation is the lifeblood of Africa, supporting 6,9-million jobs and US$ 80 billion (nearly R987 billion) in gross domestic product.

“It sends African goods and its people out into the world, and brings in economic investment, tourism, trade and aid. Without aviation, Africa would be a more fractured and constrained continent. With aviation, it can better realise its ideals of regional integration, peace and prosperity,” says Tyler.

The IATA urges governments, safety regulators and industry to take action to drive aviation connectivity and infrastructure development in Africa for the economic and social development of the continent.

“Africa is set to be one of the fastest-growing aviation regions over the next 20 years, with annual expansion averaging nearly five percent,” notes Tyler. “This opens up incredible economic opportunities for Africa, but aviation also faces considerable challenges. For its potential to be realised, correct policies must be developed. Smarter regulation, and a focus on delivering the safety and connectivity commitments of the African Union, will be crucial to establishing Africa as a global aviation powerhouse.”

Tyler identifies key challenges that need to be addressed:

• Safety: “Safety must always be our first priority. Africa experienced zero jet hull losses in 2014; an excellent result. The all-aircraft accident rate, however, remains considerably higher than the global average. The Abuja Declaration commitments by African governments must be followed up with action to increase compliance with ICAO standards.”

IATA is moving forward with assistance for airlines that are eligible for the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). For airlines ineligible for IOSA, a new IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) has been developed.

• Smarter regulation: “African nations have an opportunity to enact smarter regulation to enable better aviation connectivity. Implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision will open up air routes within the continent and provide opportunities for more than five million additional passengers a year.

“Those African governments yet to ratify the Montreal Convention 99 and Montreal Protocol 14 treaties on global standard airline liability and the treatment of unruly passengers, should do so without delay.”

• Infrastructure: The provision of appropriate infrastructure, that offers the right capacity at the right price, is essential for the growth of sustainable air services across Africa. “The ICAO has very clear guidelines on infrastructure funding – and Africa has an opportunity to be a leader in this field by developing its infrastructure in close consultation with the industry.”

• Environment: “The industry is committed to meeting its carbon emissions targets. In particular, our goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 is of utmost priority. The negotiations, for a global market-based measure to tackle carbon emissions from aircrafts, are entering a crucial phase ahead of the 2016 ICAO Assembly. It is vital that African governments support a workable solution, in order for a measure to be in place in time for the industry’s 2020 goal of carbon-neutral growth.”

Our continent’s aviation industry faces similar challenges to those in the rest of the world, but it does hold great potential.

Tyler continues: “For too long, Africa’s aviation potential has been overlooked, but the reality is that Africa is an emerging economic power in the world. Two decades ago, Africa’s market had the same potential as China’s.

“Since then, China has moved far ahead, but Africa still has that potential – and it must be developed correctly. Smarter regulation, and a focus on delivering the safety and connectivity commitments of the African Union, will be crucial to establishing Africa as a global aviation powerhouse.”

 

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