Beijing – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has identified five challenges China will face in building a cost-efficient, safe and competitive industry. These are: efficient air traffic management, environmental sustainability, cost-efficient airport infrastructure, internal cost control, and commercial freedoms.

“China has an important role in the industry today, and is a future global leader for air transport. By 2010, the largest single market for aviation will be intra-Asia accounting for nearly a third of all air travel with China at the centre. China is at a critical moment that is also a great opportunity. And to build a more successful future, China has to avoid the mistakes made in other parts of the world,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO, at the China Civil Aviation Development Forum in Beijing today.

  • Efficient air traffic management: “The goal is to use global standards to make Chinese airspace among the most effective in the world to meet demand safely and efficiently,” said Bisignani. “While there have been impressive accomplishments in China – IATA-1 was opened last year that cuts 30 minutes off a round trip to Europe, RVSM will be implemented this year – big challenges still remain. The congestion delays in the Golden Triangle can be measured in hours, while the inefficient airspace design in the Pearl River Delta is costing HK$1 million a day with Chinese carriers being the most affected. We need a solution quickly,” said Bisignani.
  • Environmental sustainability: “Climate change is among the biggest issues facing aviation today. Airlines, like all industries, must do more to limit their carbon footprint. China needs to ensure that aviation is treated fairly when incorporating environmental targets in development plans,” said Bisignani. He also urged China to join the IATA environment agenda to use technology to further improve the fuel efficiency of aircraft, make air traffic management as efficient as possible, avoid taxes and charges, and adopt global solutions for emissions trading.
  • Cost-efficient airport infrastructure: Under ICAO guidelines, infrastructure charges must be cost-related, non-discriminatory, transparent and decided in consultation with users. “China has some of the highest charges in Asia outside of Japan. With uniform charges for all Chinese airports, they are definitely not cost-related. IATA is working with the government to develop a charges regime that challenges airports on efficiency, provides a reasonable return to investors, and supports a competitive industry,” said Bisignani.
  • Internal cost control: “It is easy to overlook productivity issues when experiencing high growth and everything is absorbed in the bottom line. Chinese carriers should focus on productivity now and not wait for a crisis to do so, as shown in the experience of the US and European carriers. Effective cost allocation is the only way to understand where the gaps are, and identify areas for improvement,” said Bisignani.
  • Commercial freedoms: “The recent US-EU open-skies agreement moves the industry in the right direction, but falls short of the fundamental change we need. China’s fast growing economy demands efficient air transport links, and progressive liberalisation has played an important role – opening Hainan as a free port for aviation services, liberalising bilaterals with the US, ASEAN, Japan and Korea. With the aviation industry’s centre of gravity moving East, China has an enormous leadership opportunity to shape policy where the US and EU have failed to do so,” said Bisignani.

“With consolidation, effective cost allocation, and access to best practice in global financial and management tools, the Chinese carriers are even better prepared to face strong global competition. A market that can achieve a perfect safety record, implement electronic ticketing in a year and a half and grow business by 14% certainly has the ability to lead and manage change in Asia and globally. IATA has strengthened its presence in China with one goal: to support that future by helping to avoid the mistakes made in other parts of the world, working as partners to implement global standards and leading critical change,” said Bisignani

Notes to Editors

  • IATA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) in 2006 to expand strategic cooperation to further the safe, efficient and sustainable development of China’s air transportation system. The MoU focuses on the exchange of information, capabilities and experience in eleven areas including safety, air traffic management, training, fuel efficiency and technology.
  • In 2005, electronic ticketing in China was among the lowest in the world. Today it is at 95%, ahead of the 79% global figure.