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Aviation Is a Force for Good

Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General & CEO

By Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO

Aviation is a team effort. Working together over the past decade, the aviation team safely transported more than 23 billion people and 426 million tonnes of cargo.

The industry is growing. On average, 7.6 million people take to the skies each day. By 2015 that number is expected to rise to nearly 10 million. That will be equivalent to transporting the entire population of the urban area of Paris each day. 

These are amazing numbers. People and business clearly have a thirst for the products that aviation provides. And we are able to quench that thirst only because of the coordinated efforts of airlines, airports, air traffic managers, manufacturers, the passenger and cargo distribution chains, caterers, ground handlers, fuel suppliers, regulators, and many more.

Collectively, we changed our planet into a global community. Aviation is a force for good that has generated tremendous wealth—both physical and of the human spirit. This is no more evident than during the year-end holiday season. Cargo terminals are overflowing with holiday goods. And airports around the world are packed with travelers discovering new places or renewing ties with family and friends. It is estimated that the air transport industry supports $3.5 trillion in global economic activity and 33 million jobs.

But for all the good that aviation delivers, the bottom line for airlines is dismal. Since 2001 airlines took in just about $5 trillion in revenue. The net result was a $30 billion loss. That is not a performance to attract new investment or enable fragile balance sheets to be repaired. It’s a tough business. And the prevailing economic uncertainty indicates that 2012 will be another tough year.

Already in 2011 we have seen governments looking to aviation as a potential source of cash for depleted government coffers. Instead of using aviation strategically to boost economic activity and jobs, the US is seeking to double its security charge and impose a new per-plane tax. Under the leadership of the ATA, IATA joined a coalition of more than 30 organizations representing business and employee interest. The final result is yet to be seen, but the united voice of aviation awakened strong opposition in Congress.

There is a lesson in this. IATA’s mission is a strong advocate of industry issues. But IATA will be even more effective as a voice in a chorus of industry advocates than as a soloist. And of course the message will resonate more effectively among those with influence if the industry is aligned and in harmony.
To help with the process, IATA has commissioned 54 economic studies that explain the benefits of aviation at a national level. The jobs and economic activity that aviation creates are powerful arguments to convince governments of the value of supportive aviation policies. And the studies are tools for anyone in the industry to use in helping to quantify and explain that to our many stakeholders in government.

The new year will almost certainly bring new threats of more taxation or restrictive regulations. I hope that we as a united industry can turn these challenges into opportunities. We must field the aviation team to help governments understand that aviation can help them. If we are not burdened by excessive taxes and punitive regulations, aviation has the power to create jobs and catalyze economic growth. No special favors are needed—just the ability to get on with business.

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