The global connectivity that aviation provides is the lifeblood of the global economy. Around the world, aviation supports 33 million jobs and $3.5 trillion in economic activity$1.2 trillion of this in the US alone. The world is thirsty for our product, giving us tremendous potential for growth and innovation. But there are no guarantees in turning that potential into reality. Aviation is a team effort. The industry value chain and governments must work even more closely together to ensure safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible air services, said Tony Tyler, IATAs Director General and CEO in an address to the International Aviation Club in Washington.
Tyler highlighted safety as an example of the success that can be achieved when industry and governments work together with a common goal that drives constant innovation. In the decade ending this year, airlines will have safely transported over 23 billion people and nearly 426 million tonnes of cargo. Those amazing statistics are the result of our rich history of working together to address the fundamental challenge of safety with global standards that are consistently applied, said Tyler.
Tyler also focused on aviations environmental challenge. Aviation has the most ambitious environmental commitments of any industry sector, including cutting net emissions in half by 2050 compared with 2005 levels. Sustainable biofuels have the greatest potential to contribute to this goal, with up to 80% reduction in CO2 over the lifecycle of the fuel. But the industry needs help to turn potential into reality. Specifically, we must work together to convince governments to take policy measures to support a framework for their success. Its in everybodys interest to improve environmental performance, energy self-sufficiency and create jobs in the green economy, said Tyler.
Unfortunately, the attention of governments is being distracted by Europes unilateral plan to include international aviation in its emissions trading scheme. The industry supports market based measuresincluding emissions tradingthat are globally coordinated through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said Tyler who noted that Europes plans are coming under increasing pressure as states express their concerns over sovereignty issues. The US is debating legislation to prohibit its carriers from participating and 26 states sponsored a declaration by the ICAO Council urging Europes governments to abandon their unilateral and extra-territorial plans and support the success of a global solution through ICAO. I cannot think of another issue that touches international aviation, with the exception of safety, on which China, India, Russia, Japan and the US are in agreement, said Tyler.
Tyler identified three additional areas where cooperation and innovation are needed:
- Security: IATA urged governments to support innovation to improve aviation security with IATAs Checkpoint of the Future vision. Airlines and governments have spent at least a cumulative total of $100 billion over the past 10 years on security. Unfortunately, for many of our passengers that investment has made security the single biggest point of dissatisfaction in the travel experience. It is often too slow, unpredictable and overly intrusive. IATAs vision is for a Checkpoint of the Future that introduces a risk-based approach and uses technology solutions to allow a passenger to get from curb to gate without stopping to unpack or remove clothes, said Tyler.
Tyler emphasized that risk-based screening does not infringe on privacy. Known traveler programs are completely voluntary. And for risk assessments we are only proposing to use information that is already collected for governments for the immigration process.
- Taxation: Despite our vital economic role, politicians appear to value us more as surrogate tax collectors, said Tyler noting IATAs strong support of opposition to recent US proposals to double the passenger security fee and impose a $100 charge on every aircraft that takes off. The purpose is primarily to generate funds for the treasury at the expense of travelers. Strong and united opposition from the aviation stakeholder community awakened firm resistance to the proposals in Congress. We must continue to work together to persuade lawmakers and regulators to focus on aviation as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation. We cannot do that if we are being buried in taxes, said Tyler.
- Regulation: Our challenge with governments is not just taxation. We suffer equally, if not more, from bad regulations, said Tyler, citing US passenger rights regulation as an example. Delays and flight cancellations are estimated to have cost the US economy some $31.2 billion in 2008. Yet we see regulation that is meant to protect passenger rights actually provide incentives to airlines to cancel flights because penalties for extended delays are so costly. Not only that, the regulation puts the entire burden on the airlines even though the responsibility for delays is often beyond their control. I am not arguing that airports and government agencies should also be subject to draconian fines for equipment failures or personnel shortages that result in passengers being unable to disembark. I am suggesting that we eliminate this economically damaging rule and replace a rigid culture of blame with a flexible structure mandating collaborative decision making among all the stakeholders.
Tyler said that through cooperation and innovation, aviation can meet its challenges. Under my watch, IATA will continue to be a strong advocate of industry issues. But IATA will be even more effective as a voice in a strong chorus of industry advocates than as a soloist. And of course the message will resonate more effectively with those we seek to influence if we are in alignment, in harmony and delivering results.