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Alexandre de Juniac



Ideas 7 June 2017

Three Observations of 73rd IATA AGM

The 73rd IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit is now history. It was a busy few days!

Like any AGM, we had many governance requirements to attend to. And our membership passed three important resolutions: to accelerate the modernization of the air cargo industry, to urge governments to collaborate better on security, and to ask governments to do more on sustainable alternatives fuels for aviation.

I also took note of the immense opportunities created by our member airlines joining forces with our partners in government and across the supply chain. Let me share with you three observations as I looked around the room.

The first observation is that aviation is a big, complicated and global business. The magic about the IATA AGM is that people who complete day-in-and-day-out for business gather to work together.

The AGM attendees have a common interest in connectivity. And they know that in order to deliver the continuous changes needed to keep flying safe, efficient and sustainable we need to collaborate. 

The second observation is the scale of the industry. Airlines will carry four billion passengers this year. That's 11 million passengers every day. To put that into perspective, the population of Singapore is about 5.5 million people. So the work that airlines do every day is equivalent to moving the entire population of Singapore somewhere and then bringing them all safely home. That's pretty amazing.

The scale of our cargo business is no less impressive. Each day airlines carry about 150,000 tonnes of cargo. In my main speech to the delegates of the AGM, I was pleased to report that the air cargo industry is emerging from a six year coma with growth of 7.5% expected this year.

It's true that air cargo has been a particularly difficult business with little growth or profits in recent years. But, even while in that six-year "coma", airlines moved goods worth $30 trillion. That's equal to the annual GDP of the US and China combined.  The global economy would look very different without the ability to get goods to market by air.

The third observation is the motivation of the people in the industry. Of course, every airline is under pressure to makes ends meet. It's the same for any business, and it is no secret that making a profit running an airline is a tough job. We expect 2017 to mark the third year in a row when airlines will earn a normal return. On $743 billion in revenues, airlines will make $31.4 billion.

But the air transport industry is about more than its bottom line. The work that airlines do touches people. It helps them to live better lives in so many ways. It's globalization at its very best. It is the business of freedom. And each IATA AGM re-energizes the IATA fold to make global aviation even stronger.

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