We have come to the end of the second Agenda for Freedom Summit. I would like to make some brief remarks to close this historic summit.
First I thank you for working with us over the year since our last meeting and for being here this weekend. With the global economic crisis, it has been a challenging year for governments and airlines. There have been many fires to fight. It has not been easy to focus on long-term issues like strengthening the industry’s regulatory foundation. But you have determination and it has been worth the effort.
Today’s signing of the mulitlateral Statement of Policy Principles regarding the Implementation of Bilateral Air Service Agreements is a truly historic achievement. These principles are a big step forward for an industry that is struggling for financial sustainability.
Since 2001, airlines have lost over US$50 billion. This year our top line revenues will shrink by US$80 billion. We do not want the handouts that other industries have asked for and received. We are an industry that supports 32 million jobs and US$3.5 trillion in economic activity. So it is a vital policy concern for your national economies and the global economy that this industry recovers and grows.
Our recent history re-confirms the structural weaknesses that have kept airlines from covering even their cost of capital.
The industry can no longer afford the restrictions of the bilateral system. Airlines need normal commercial tools to access markets and global capital, and the freedom to merge or consolidate when it makes business sense—even if that is across national borders.
I congratulate the signatories: Chile, Malaysia, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America and the European Commission.
Together you represent 60% of global aviation. Together you have shown the courage to change.
Your signatures today, as the most progressive of governments on aviation policy, will send a strong message to the rest of the world.
It would be naïve to think that these principles will solve all of our problems overnight. Today is not the end but rather a beginning. There is homework for everybody.
We count on all of you to be a fraternity of liberal thinking states that will grow and spread these principles far and wide by gathering more signatures, by making these principles the basis of your negotiations and by using these principles to interpret your agreements.
We count on ICAO to use these principles as a key element in their follow-up to AT Conf/5. Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, President of the ICAO Council has joined us. I thank him for his wisdom and know what we can count on his support for your efforts in formal processes like the ICAO Assembly next year and preparations for AT Conf 6; and informal processes like speed dating to facilitate bilateral agreements that has become so popular.
You can also count on us—the airlines. We will keep the Agenda for Freedom website to track progress with a library that showcases best practices. And we will look for other ways to support the effort to make aviation a more normal business.
Before concluding, one last thank-you goes to Jeff Shane for his skill in chairing these two summits.
Although we will not meet formally again as a group, the entire IATA team looks forward to working with you to bring more members into this visionary grouping of leading aviation nations.