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A Team Effort - Comment from IATA's Director General & CEO

The benefits of aviation touch almost every part of modern life

The summer travel season in the Northern Hemisphere is always a good reminder of the amazing mobility that aviation makes possible. Some 600 million people are expected to travel by air over the months of July and August. On a daily basis that is the equivalent of moving the entire population of a country about the size of Sweden every single day. On top of that, over seven million tonnes of air cargo will also be delivered.

This connectivity is so safe, efficient and ubiquitous that most people take it for granted. But without it, our world would be very different.

Without air connectivity the great celebration of human athletic achievement—the Olympics—that was in the spotlight over the summer would most certainly have had a very different character and a smaller scale. Weekend breaks and longer vacations would have a much smaller view of the world. Store shelves, filled with the products of global supply chains, would be much less rich in variety. The markets for business people would also be much more local.

But rather than speculating on what the world would be like without air travel, it’s more productive to appreciate and exploit all that connectivity currently makes possible. Even better, we should put our best efforts to building a sustainable environment for connectivity to make the world an even better place.
Just as the benefits of aviation touch almost every part of modern life, aviation needs a broadly based team effort to be successful—that includes governments.

The uncertain global economic conditions are challenging governments. That is forcing some tactical government responses, which are not always in the best long-term national interest. Spain, for example, implemented a 50% increase in charges at its main hub airports of Barcelona and Madrid. The economic circumstances of the country are dire. Building a more competitive economy should be the government’s focus. But increasing costs for connectivity will most certainly have a detrimental impact on Spain’s tourism industry, which accounts for around $50 billion annually.

In other cases, government complexity is the challenge. In India, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is trying to bring down costs for jet fuel as one measure to improve the competitiveness of Indian aviation. It has provided increased competition to supply fuel at airports. But it has not yet convinced other parts of the government apparatus to support common access to off-airport storage or for state governments to reduce crippling fuel taxes as high as 30%.

The fortunate thing is that because aviation is so connected to modern life, almost any initiative to set a more positive environment for the industry brings broad economic and social benefits. With aviation supporting some 57 million jobs and $2.2 trillion in economic activity, it’s worth the effort to achieve joined-up long-term thinking. That applies whether you are in the height of the business season in the south, enjoying a holiday in the north, or somewhere in between.

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