Anybody walking around the Darling Harbour area of Sydney, Australia will see some colorful IATA flags flapping in the rather strong seasonal winds. The IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit have come to town!
Once a year the CEOs of the global airline industry put aside their differences and come together to address common challenges. The gathering starts on Sunday. And there is plenty to discuss.
A lot has happened since the industry last met. A ban on Portable Electronic Devices was replaced with broadly enhanced security measures. A raft of new routes were opened, including one of the longest, connecting London directly with Australia for the first time. A near double-digit recovery in cargo demand growth over the past year has normalized at more historical levels. And the total number of travelers rises inexorably. We expect 4.3 billion passengers to fly this year.
What will likely be front and center for most CEO’s however, is the rapidly rising price of oil. Brent Crude is nearing the $80/barrel mark. Nobody is shouting “crisis” yet. The airlines have done their homework over nearly two decades of relentless restructuring. Much of it was dramatic as the industry was jolted from crisis to crisis.
Today we find ourselves in the crosshairs of conflicting political agendas. The undercurrent of protectionist and isolationist pressures are a real challenge for a business that exists to connect people and link commerce.
I am 100% confident in the future of aviation. We are not political. But we are proud to be the business of freedom. The benefits that aviation brings to our world are real. We can count them in jobs and GDP. And we can see them in the faces of travelers, whether beginning journeys to explore the world or coming home to friends and families.
We enjoy unprecedented mobility simply because we happened to be born after flying became commercialized in 1914. It is our duty as an industry to ensure and grow this privilege for generations to follow.
Every IATA AGM plays a role in fulfilling that responsibility. In 2007 the industry committed to tough sustainability goals. The 2008 AGM ushered in the convenience of e-tickets. When we met in 2009 we added a mark of quality to our association as all our members were on the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registry. In 2013 we committed to the principles that are at the core of the CORSIA agreement to offset our emissions from growth. In 2016 we committed to increase our efforts against illicit trafficking in wildlife.
As the industry gathers in Sydney for the 74th edition of the IATA AGM, highlights of the agenda will include expanding our activities to fight human trafficking and looking for ways to head off an infrastructure crisis.
Those are the issues of the day that will get people talking. Equally important is the powerful statement that an industry coming together makes. Our 290 member airlines represent 82% of the global air transport industry. That industry supports 63 million jobs, underpins $2.7 trillion of economic activity, and delivers a third of goods traded internationally by value. It’s an industry to be noticed.
The flags flying in Darling Harbour are a great symbol of one of the AGM’s most important roles. That is to remind the world of the value that aviation creates—a compelling reason for governments to support our efforts with effective policies. Stay tuned for lots of news over the next few days!