IATA recently appointed Simon McNamara as Area Manager, United Kingdom and Ireland, reporting to Rafael Schvartzman, IATA's Regional Vice President for Europe. He will join our London office on 1 October 2018 from our member airline Flybe, where he holds the position of Director of Communications, leading the airline's activities in government advocacy, media relations, as well as its internal communication and crisis communications.
Simon has a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from City University in London, and a Masters in Air Transport Management from Cranfield University. He has a 23 year career in the industry, much of it working closely with IATA, particularly during his five year stint as Director General of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).
We spoke to Simon to hear about his experience, as well as his vision for the markets he will be covering, including its top priorities, and what best practices he will be able to bring along.
Simon, first of all, welcome to IATA. You were selected from an exceptionally high number of applicants to head our United Kingdom & Ireland office in London, so congratulations. What are your first impressions?
Thank you for the welcome. During my career I've been lucky enough to work closely with IATA on various initiatives and campaigns. I have always been struck by the professionalism and effectiveness of IATA as an organization but, more importantly, the expertise and dedication of the team driving the air transport industry's work forward. With that in mind, I feel very privileged to be joining the team and I'm excited to be able to help lead and deliver on IATA's goals and ambitions in the UK and Irish markets and of course create additional value for our members there.
What aspects of your past two experiences at Flybe and ERA will you be able to bring to IATA to represent our members, and engage with your stakeholders?
I've seen both sides of our business in my career working for an airline and also for a trade body delivering services and benefits to members. I think having seen both sides will give me a rounded perspective on what our members need from IATA. I'm also a realist and I believe I will be able to bring a sense of pragmatism to discussions with government and regulators having spent many years working in government advocacy matters.
What are the top issues in the UK and Irish air transport markets?
I start my new role on October 1 and the homework I've set myself before I begin is to approach a range of influencers, including many IATA colleagues, who are active in the UK and Irish markets. By doing this I hope to be able to form a rounded judgment on what the top issues are affecting the market so I can hit the ground running. That said, from my perspective at Flybe, a UK airline, we had a range of key issues which included Brexit, the growing cost of EU261, the impact of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and growth of airport capacity at hubs like Heathrow.
What can IATA in general and your London-based team in particular do to address these particular topics?
In my role as Director General of ERA, my mantra to the team was twofold. Firstly, in everything we did our focus had to be on delivering real and tangible benefits to members. Secondly, we needed to effectively communicate to members what we were working on and why we were doing it. My aim from the outset will be for the team to be focused on both of these elements to ensure we deliver benefits to our members in everything we do.
Your market has the particularity of consulting stakeholders before major decisions are taken. Do you think other countries should follow that approach as well?
Consultation with industry is an essential part of ensuring that regulation is rounded and balanced. It's vital that those regulated have a say in shaping the final outcome of any rule. Over the years I've seen many examples of this done well across Europe, but also many examples of it done badly. Genuine, meaningful consultation is not easy and, yes, the UK and Ireland do consult well, but that is not to say they are immune to not always hearing clearly what we, as industry, have to say. The onus on us at IATA is to ensure we concisely and clearly advocate what our positions are and back up our arguments with logic and facts.
Thank you very much, Simon. Welcome on board, and all the best for this new and exciting adventure!