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IATA Holds its Annual General Meeting

By Rob Russell

The IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit is the world's largest gathering of airline leaders. The 79th AGM and World Air Transport Summit will be held in Istanbul, Türkiye, 4-6 June 2023, hosted by Pegasus Airlines and co-hosted by AnadoluJet.

The conference is an annual event and highlights the airline industry, its problems, progress and the general state of the industry. A packed programme includes the annual report by Willie Walsh, Director General. He started his career at Air Lingus, before joining BA and rising to CEO there in 2005 and was instrumental in the founding of the IAG (International Airline Group).

Discussion groups are a feature of their meetings and among those being held are:

  • Aviation: a vital link in times of crisis

When disaster strikes, aviation is a critical lifeline for first responders and relief supplies. We will look at aviation’s contribution in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Southern Túrkiye and Northern Syria earlier this year.

  • The Big Picture

The post-pandemic aviation era continues to unfold. Demand is recovering but other challenges are emerging. IATA members will take a deep dive into the latest industry financial outlook and explore with global experts two key forces that are shaping global aviation: a changing energy landscape and shifting supply chains.

  • Sustainability: aiming for a zero-waste cabin

Airlines are committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The industry also recognizes that sustainability goes beyond carbon. This session focuses on cabin waste.

  • Sustainability: financing the transition to SAF

Airlines are committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The industry also recognizes that sustainability goes beyond carbon. In this session, IATA will explore how to finance the transition to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

  • Lessons learned from 2022’s operational challenges

2022 saw severe operational challenges in some key hubs—primarily in North America and Europe. IATA will examine what was learned to enable airlines and infrastructure providers to always have a realistic and common view of the capacity available to meet the demands of travellers and shippers.

  • Data: the next frontier

Data drives business success, but unlocking its potential comes with many challenges. The discussion will examine data’s contribution to the bottom line, look at ownership and management of airline data, discuss how to keep data safe from hackers and what to expect next in regulation.

One of the main topics at this year’s AGM is the move towards zero emissions. IATA has released a series of roadmaps, highlighting this aspect of aviation. With the adoption of a Long Term Aspirational Goal (LTAG) at ICAO’s 41st Assembly, governments and industry are aligned to reach the same net zero CO2 emissions goal by 2050. As policy initiatives lay the foundation on which many of the needed innovations and actions will rest, these roadmaps will be a critical reference point for policymakers.

The roadmaps were not developed in isolation. A peer-to-peer review, complemented by a modelling tool provided by the Air Transportation Systems Laboratory at University College London (UCL), was conducted to calculate emission reductions for each technology.

Aviation is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonize. As other sectors speed up their journeys to reach their net-zero carbon objectives, aviation could lag, and increase its share of the total global emissions. To avoid this, there are three levers of action that the sector can use to reduce, neutralize, and eliminate its emissions: • Reduce aircraft energy use (= less fuel = less CO2). • Change the fuel and reduce its carbon footprint. • And re-capture all the carbon which could not be abated, or which is associated to the manufacture of new fuels.

Five roadmaps (Aircraft technology, Energy and fuels, Operations, Policy and Finance) are being developed to deliver this. The first three are the “what?”: what do we need to get to net zero, the second two, are the “how?” how do we enable these new technologies, new fuels, and better operations through smart policy and financing mechanisms? The roadmaps are set out to articulate in detail the developments that are necessary to reach our net zero goal, identifying important milestones on the way. The roadmaps chart a possible course towards net zero for the aviation industry, by leveraging all the possible technological, infrastructural, operational, financial, and policy levers in an integrated way.

Highlights of the roadmaps include:

  • • Aircraft Technology: the development of more efficient aircraft and engines. Particularly important are the steps needed to enable aircraft powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), hydrogen or batteries. All development milestones are backed up by announced investment and demonstrator programs. Also included are new engines, aerodynamics, aircraft structures, and flight systems.

  • Energy and New Fuels Infrastructure: the focus is on the fuels and new energy carrier infrastructure upstream from airports needed to facilitate the use of aircraft powered by SAF or hydrogen. Renewable energy plays a vital role in meeting the aviation sector's energy demand, and the roadmap outlines milestones to enable the necessary infrastructure developments.

  • Operations: the opportunities for reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency by improving the way existing aircraft are operated. Automation, big data management, and the integration of new technologies are key enablers for optimizing air traffic management and enhancing the overall efficiency of the air transportation system.

  • Policy: the need for globally aligned strategic policies to provide incentives and support for the aviation industry's transition to a net-zero future. As with all other successful energy transitions, a collaboration between governments and industry stakeholders is crucial in creating the necessary framework to achieve the decarbonization goals.

  • Finance: how to finance the cumulative $5 trillion needed for aviation to achieve net zero by 2050. This includes technological advancements, infrastructure developments, and operational improvements.

Amongst the highlights from Sunday’s presentations, was an Africa Middle East Media Briefing, presented by Kamil Al Awadhi IATA Regional Vice-President AME

The following points were highlighted:

  • Africa had a strong start to 2023, despite several industry headwinds, and we continue to be on track to recovering global air passenger traffic (measured by revenue passenger kilometres,

  • International traffic has been slower to recover because of impacts from travel restrictions and the war in Ukraine. But it is catching up with domestic as international markets, particularly in Asia, reopen.

  • Our industry received tremendous help from cargo in 2021 when CTKs exceeded their pre-pandemic levels throughout the year. Cargo is facing some headwinds today, stemming from the slowing macro-economic and trade conditions as well as from the incoming belly capacity

  • Africa’s passenger traffic is within 16% of 2019 levels as of April 2023.

  • Africa’s passenger traffic will double by 2040, eclipsing 300 million passengers (134 million for 2022 to 263 in 2035)

  • Eastern, Central/Western Africa to bring further contribution to overall traffic growth in the region.

  • Blocked funds remain a challenge in the region. As of April, globally, there is a total of $2.3 billion in blocked funds. Of this, 80% is blocked in Africa and the Middle East for a total of $1.9 billion, and out of that, nearly $1.6 billion (70%) is tied up in African countries.

  • IATA calls on governments to prioritise aviation in the access to foreign exchange on the basis that air connectivity is a vital key economic catalyst for the country

  • Of concern, was the increase in accident rates, especially amongst turboprop operators. The African region experienced 7 accidents per million sectors flown. This is the highest in the world, with most regions reporting no losses. The priority for Africa continues to be the implementation of global standards in all areas related to safety which covers more than incidents and accidents

  • Continuing emphasis is also required on the regulatory aspects; oversight by Member States, and if we look to the airlines, registration to IATA's global safety auditing program, IOSA and/or ISSA certification. Significant work has been undertaken to improve safety across Africa but there are still improvements to be made - implementation of ICAO standards needs to be improved - 21 States in Africa fall below the state safety program effective implementation (EI).

To achieve the safety objectives among other goals for aviation in Africa, IATA has launched “Focus Africa” to strengthen aviation’s contribution to Africa’s economic and social development.

Africa accounts for 18% of the global population, but just 2.1% of air transport activities (combined cargo and passenger). Closing that gap, so that Africa can benefit from the connectivity, jobs and growth that aviation enables, and Africans can benefit from more accessible travel is what Focus Africa is all about.

This Focus Africa initiative is not something invented by IATA and is being prescribed for Africa. It has been defined both through broad consultation as well as by the policies and realities that characterise our industry in Africa.



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