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Beyond The Crisis

By Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO, IATA

As we come to the end of 2009, some industry indicators are showing improvement. Passenger traffic and load factors are approaching pre-crisis levels. Cargo remains in negative territory, although much improved from the -23% recorded in December 2008. And, in the first ten months of the year, airlines raised $24.5 billion in new cash—$20 billion in debt and $4.5 billion equity.

These early signs of optimism are good news for a beleaguered industry. But the crisis is not over. Any recovery will be profitless until 2011 at the earliest and we have lost at least three years of growth. Nevertheless, it is time to start looking at the post-crisis world—and environment and liberalization must be a part of that consideration.

Climate change will continue to be a top agenda item. We can be proud that even in the middle of a financial crisis our industry had the courage to set targets that will help us secure a sustainable future. We are committed to improving fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per year until 2020, stabilizing emissions from 2020 with carbon neutral growth, and halving emissions by 2050 compared to 2005.

It is uncertain what will result from the Copenhagen meetings. The focus of governments has shifted from finding ways to reduce emissions to finding financial solutions to accommodate both developed and developing nations. Divisions on how states handle this challenge will likely make a deal at Copenhagen very difficult to achieve.

However, aviation has what could be an important precedent. Through ICAO, aviation accommodated all nations in a solution for noise that allowed a seven-year time-frame for compliance, along with special considerations for developing states. That may not be the perfect template for how we deal with emissions, but it is encouragement for governments to find a global, sectoral approach for aviation which accommodates all states and drives emissions reductions on an industry-wide basis.

Commercial Freedom

Aviation must also move forward with progressive liberalization. The crisis is yet another reminder of the need for airlines to have the commercial freedoms to run their business like any other. November marked significant progress—seven states and the European Commission signed a multilateral Statement of Policy Principles. While maintaining a level playing field, the agreed principles aim to relax ownership rules and provide access to both global markets and capital.
Countries signing the statement account for some 60% of commercial aviation. This is a strong signal that the future of our industry must be realized in a much more liberal environment. But signing the statement is only the beginning. Airlines around the world encourage and support the visionary first signatories to the statement in their efforts to quickly bring more governments on board.

For aviation, 2010 will be a year of re-building. Fundamental progress on environment and liberalization should allow for that to occur on a foundation that is both solid and sustainable.

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