International air transport grew at double-digit rates from its earliest post-1945 days until the first oil crisis in 1973. Much of the impetus for this growth came from technical innovation. The introduction of turbo-propeller aircraft in the early 1950s, transatlantic jets in 1958, wide-bodied aircraft and high by-pass engines in 1970 and later, advanced avionics were the main innovations. They brought higher speeds, greater size, better unit cost control and, as a result, lower real fares and rates. Combined with increased real incomes and more leisure time, the effect was an explosion in demand for air travel.

Increased demand for air travel led to increased activity for IATA

Technical work evolved into seven broad areas.

  • Avionics and Telecommunications including the vital air navigation function
  • Engineering and Environment with the development of an IATA policy on aircraft noise and other emissions
  • Airports and the definition of airline requirements for airport terminals
  • Flight Operations safety factors such as minimum aircraft separation standards and air routings
  • Medical monitoring of health standards for flight crews and facilitation of air travel for disabled passengers
  • Facilitation to speed the flow of people and goods through airports - particularly, customs and immigration
  • Security and safeguarding passengers and cargo by preventing hijacking and sabotage and minimizing fraud and theft of tickets

IATA's legal efforts anticipated the effects of new technology associated with the period of rapid growth. It was able to advise the industry on new aircraft and systems, electronic data processing and advances in sales and marketing techniques. Since acts of hijacking and sabotage became more frequent during this period, IATA assisted in the development of the Tokyo, Hague and Montreal Conventions, the first international legal counter-measures.

Automation became commonplace in airline operations during the 1960s. Standardization in its use was less commonplace and IATA began its involvement in perfecting standard message formats for inter-company data exchange, which continues to this day.

The goal has been to save money for the airlines, while enhancing airline service. This philosophy was carried over to many activities during the 1950s and 1960s.

The development of the Clearing House was followed by the establishment of Billing and Settlement Plans and Cargo Accounts Settlement Systems - in effect, one-way clearing houses to speed the flow of revenue from agents to airlines. Sales Agents were given the opportunity to prove their professional status under an accreditation process, and training - in conjunction with the Universal Federation of Travel Agents' Associations and the Federation of Freight Forwarders' Associations - was introduced. The pattern for airline-agent relations was set with the introduction of the Standard Agency Agreement in 1952. 

International air transport creates special problems of taxation. This was a concern even before World War Two. IATA makes specific challenges to the legality of certain taxes and points out to governments the counter-productive effect of excessive aviation taxation in general. User Charges - payment for using airports and air navigation services - mushroomed during the 1960s and 70s. IATA strived to minimize their impact by ensuring that the charges are for facilities actually required, that charges are cost-related and that productivity improvements are built into cost projections. Currency earned by airlines abroad is sometimes blocked by the central bank of the country in which it is earned. IATA worked to free it, for transfer back to the airline that earned it.

IATA members developed the technical specifications for containers and created a Unit Load Device (ULD) control center, to keep track of their movements. Until 1955, there was a complete embargo on the air transport of toxic, flammable or corrosive materials. Then IATA developed the Dangerous Goods Regulations for their safe carriage. A decade later, the Live Animals Regulations provided for suitable standards for the in-flight welfare of animals.

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Portraits of IATA leaders since 1945