"In 2003, the combination of war in Iraq, ongoing security concerns and SARS has tested the mettle of the air transport industry in an unprecedented manner," said IATA Director General & CEO Giovanni Bisignani. "Painful recovery strategies, industry resilience and willingness to adapt have been essential on the road to recovery."
Following the dramatic decline in airline traffic resulting from SARS in the first half of the year, passenger figures have steadily improved. Monthly growth has resumed, and IATA anticipates that overall international passenger numbers for 2003 will be only 3 to 4% lower than 2002.
"Positive growth is expected in 2004, with a bounce-back of 7 to 8% in international RPKs (passenger traffic), with Asia Pacific leading all regions," announced Bisignani. "We must not forget, however, that passenger traffic figures are still below pre-September 11 levels."
International freight traffic remained strong during 2003 and is likely to record a 5% increase for the year, according to IATA.
"Our agenda for 2004 is designed to turn this positive trend into sustained growth and to help the industry repair damaged balance sheets," said Bisignani. "Airlines will continue to target increase internal cost efficiencies. Airports and air traffic services also have a key role to play. Many have understood the competitive pressures facing their airline customers and have taken strong measures to contain costs. It is critical in 2004 that all service providers set meaningful targets to improve efficiency and reduce costs."
IATA has established a USD 900 million global target for savings and cost avoidance. An important area for such savings will be the ATC service providers in EUROCONTROL States. From an operational perspective, IATA will work to ensure that major capacity enhancement programs are developed, as well as increased efficiencies on international routes.
Governments can also play a key role in the on-going process of financial repair, by giving the industry greater freedom to re-structure across national boundaries.
In 2004 IATA will continue to work with governments to promote security measures that are globally coordinated and operationally effective, with minimal inconvenience to airline customers. In the current heightened level of security, the airlines are cooperating with government authorities and their specific requirements to have sky marshals aboard flights where required. Aside from specific, identified threats, the international airline industry continues to believe that security resources are best allocated to ensure that threats do not get on board the aircraft. Like all security costs, the sky marshals should be provided by the governments concerned.
Continued improvement in safety remains an overarching goal for IATA and its member airlines. 2004 will mark the beginning of a new ambitious objective of further reducing current low worldwide accident rate by a further 25%. An on-going Six Point Program supports this commitment, focusing on airline safety audits, infrastructure safety, management and analysis of safety data, safety training, dangerous goods and cabin safety.
"We have a very ambitious agenda for 2004," remarked Bisignani. "IATA's strategy in 2004 will be to work effectively with our industry partners to bring the industry back to health and real growth."
- IATA -