SINGAPORE -- Starting today, a new network of air routes connecting Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Europe will be implemented that will save passengers up to 30 minutes in travel time. In addition, an estimated 103,000 minutes of ground delays should be eliminated for departures to Europe from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. For airlines, the benefits of more efficient routes in fuel savings alone will reduce costs by a conservative estimate of US$55 million per year.

Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO, said "This is a shining example of how an industry-led solution can produce real benefits for consumers and the environment along with reducing costs. This is the culmination of great efforts and outstanding cooperation by IATA, ICAO, national governments and our Member airlines."

IATA began the process of reforming the route structure following a meeting in Singapore in February 2000. IATA was tasked by its member airlines to review air traffic flows along the entire Kangaroo route from Australia to Europe with a goal to improving safety, reducing costs, and increasing both efficiency and environmental friendliness.

David Behrens, IATA regional director for Safety, Operations and Infrastructure, said, "We quickly realized that what was required was bigger than anything we had ever done before. Government cooperation was essential, and we approached our partners at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN agency responsible for aviation matters."

ICAO rose to the challenge and IATA played a leading role in the ICAO task force Europe, Middle East, Asia Route Structure South of the Himalayas (EMARSSH) whose work has resulted in the reformed route structure. In the process, at least 21 states, airlines, military agencies and the air navigation chart maker Jeppeson contributed to the largest ever route overhaul in civil aviation. Commented Behrens, "the success of the EMARSSH project has clearly demonstrated what can be accomplished through international teamwork and mutual understanding. Everyone is a winner, including the environment and the travelling public."

That is not the end of the story. "To cope with future growth, we will eventually need to move towards a User Preferred Route (UPR) system that would let airlines file optimized flexible routes based on daily wind patterns. In the meantime, EMARSSH has given the industry a robust route structure and, perhaps more importantly, it has demonstrated that there are no limits to what can be accomplished with hard work and cooperation."