Tel Aviv, Israel - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on Israel to use global standards to shore-up its air transport sector. Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO made the call in a meeting with Israeli Transport Minister Israel Katz, with specific comments on safety, security and infrastructure.

“Aviation is important for Israel. Aviation builds bridges of commerce and goodwill among people, businesses and nations. Airlines connect over 2.3 billion people and 40 million tonnes of cargo annually. This gives aviation an important role to play in this region as it does around the world. But success does not happen by chance. It must be supported by effective government policies that promote a safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible industry,” said Bisignani.

IASA Category 2: Bisignani urged Israel to speed up its exit from Category 2 of the US Federal Aviation Administration’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA). “Israel has been in Category 2 for far too long. It is a national embarrassment. Moreover, it is a costly situation for Israel’s reputation and for the financial health of its carriers. Let’s be clear: global standards are not out of reach. Israel’s four IATA member airlines (Arkia Israel Airlines, C.A.L. Cargo Airlines, El Al and Israir Airlines) are on the registry of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) for achieving the highest standards in operational safety management. The regulator must also uphold global standards decided through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” said Bisignani. IATA offered its expertise to speed the process and encouraged Israel to join the growing list of countries that have made IOSA a national requirement.

Alternate Airport: Bisignani also highlighted the urgent need for Israel to designate an alternate airport to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport to handle operational irregularities. Ovda Airport, the previous alternate airport for commercial flights, was closed to scheduled traffic earlier this year, although it does continue to provide services for charter operations. Larnaca is the current designated alternate should Ben Gurion become unavailable. “This is not acceptable and it makes little sense. Airlines face added fuel costs to be able to fly to Larnaca while charter operators continue to land at Ovda. The government must move quickly to upgrade Ovda or designate a military facility for this purpose,” said Bisignani.

Cargo Security: “The events of late October were another reminder that aviation security is a constant challenge. We are committed to working together with governments, including Israel, to make a secure industry even more secure. That does not mean re-inventing the wheel. Our vision for cargo security combines a supply chain approach, modern technology and intelligence supported by effective information gathering. Israel does a great job on cargo security and from 1 December, IATA e-freight will help it do even better. By converting freight documentation to electronic format, governments will have access to much greater insight on who is shipping what and where. We already have e-freight capability for over 80% of cargo markets with the possibility of $4.9 billion in efficiency gains with full implementation. We look forward to working with governments to make this even more robust,” said Bisignani.

Security Code Program: “Israel is a global leader in aviation security. Programs pioneered in Israel such as behavior recognition are at the cutting edge of security best practices. But the Security Code Program recently and unilaterally put in place to access Israeli airspace is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Effective security must follow international standards and requirements must be clearly communicated to the airline community. This has not happened with the Security Code Program. Airlines do not want terrorists on their aircraft any more than governments want them in their territory. I urged Minister Katz to abandon this unilateral and ineffective program in favor of a strong industry dialogue respecting global standards,” said Bisignani.

Infrastructure: Bisignani noted the successful resolution of the proposed charges increases for Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. “The airport authority wanted to increase charges by 51% for 2009-2010. Efficiency gains must be achieved across the value chain—including our monopoly service providers. The real cost of air travel dropped by a third over the last decade. We opposed the increases. The Parliamentary Economic Affairs Committee agreed and held increases back to 5% for each year and we are not expecting any increase for 2011. I urged Minister Katz to formalize the consultation process so that the airport and its customers are aligned in efforts to improve efficiency and competitiveness,” said Bisignani.

Environment: Bisignani encouraged Israel to support aviation’s targets and the ICAO agreement on climate change at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP-16 later this month in Mexico. “As a united industry of airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and manufacturers, we have agreed targets. We will improve fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% annually to 2020, cap emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth, and cut emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005. Through ICAO, governments agreed to, among other measures, cap aviation’s emissions from 2020 in line with our industry targets. Aviation—governments and industry—will go to Cancun with its homework done. I urge Israel to support our efforts for a global approach and to voice its opposition to ineffective unilateral schemes such as Europe’s plans to include aviation in its emissions trading scheme from 2012,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani concluded his remarks with a warning that aviation remains a fragile industry. “Compared to the previous year, the prospects for the air transport sector have improved tremendously. We expect the industry to return a global profit of $8.9 billion in 2010. But that is just a 1.6% margin and it will get much tougher next year. We expect profits to drop to $5.3 billion in 2011, a margin of 0.9%. Aviation is a business, not a charity association. Just to cover our cost of capital, we would need margins of 7-8%. To achieve that, we must look beyond the crises, shocks and restrictions of today. In February 2011, I am calling a small group of leaders in the industry to debate ‘Vision 2050’, with the help of Harvard University’s Professor Michael Porter and with the inspirational support of Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. In the meantime, IATA is on the ground in Israel and around the world, leading important industry change with global standards.”

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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic.
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