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Healthy outlook for ME airlines, says Iata CEO

Khaleej Times 2019-01-10 23:53:27

Airlines across the Middle East can expect to log healthy numbers in passenger traffic in 2019, despite various challenges, said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata's director general and CEO, at a media briefing on Thursday.

The growth in passenger traffic in the region, he said, is in line with Iata's predictions of a six per cent increase in global passenger traffic in 2019. The global outlook for air cargo will see a 3.7 per cent demand growth in 2019. 

"We expect to see a six per cent demand growth this year globally; and we will see growth in the Middle East region, but it is a little below the average. This is because certain areas in the region have been suffering from political turmoil. Looking back, the development of airlines across the Middle East was very fast during the 2000s era; and at a certain point the growth enters a cruise stage. It is not surprising that the most dynamic markets in the region have reached a stage where the growth is in line with the global average. Another factor that has impacted growth is the growing competition from various other territories and airlines," de Juniac said.

One issue that continues to worry experts, he added, is the issue of airspace management. "We are pushing governments to cooperate more on the topic."

Elaborating on uncertainties in the industry, de Juniac highlighted several issues such as Brexit, trade wars, and protectionist measures. 

"In the case of a no deal with Brexit, we need to agree that minimal measures are in place to ensure that connectivity is not impacted and that flights are not grounded or cancelled as many fear they will be. We are not concerned about major disruptions in the immediate aftermath; we are concerned about disruptions in the coming weeks or months, because the situation has not been calibrated properly in line with our growth predictions. We will continue to fly, but on the level that we did in 2018; and if there is growth above the level in 2018, then there will be some disruptions," he explained.

Other major concerns for 2019 will revolve around protectionism tendencies and trade wars, he said. "At the moment, the ongoing trade war between the US and China has not impacted cargo flows. More protectionist measures in the future will start t o impact cargo, and then business travel. Another major challenge that we have has to do with airport infrastructure - we need governments to make timely decisions on a range of issues such as capacity, updated infrastructure, airspace management, and services."

Asked about issues that have arisen lately due to the use of drones at airports, he noted that the matter had been dealt with effectively, and that authorities are working constantly to regulate the use of drones at airport zones. "It is an issue that has to be dealt with properly, seriously and strictly, otherwise we will be faced with a serious incident. We are also pushing for uniformity in the adopted response on such matters if they occur in the future."

De Juniac also spoke about updates regarding NDC (New Distribution Capability), a travel industry-supported program launched by Iata for the development and market adoption of a new, XML-based data transmission standard. The NDC Programme will improve communications between airlines and travel agents, and transform the way air products are retailed to corporations, leisure and business travelers, by addressing the industry's distribution limitations.

"We have invested heavily in the NDC Programme and are working very closely with airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, and flydubai on the implementation. The target for us is to reach 20 per cent penetration by 2020 with more than 50 of the major airlines operating right now," he said. - rohma@khaleejtimes.com

 

Rohma Sadaqat

I am a reporter and sub-editor on the Business desk at Khaleej Times. I mainly cover and write articles on the UAE's retail, hospitality, travel, and tourism sectors.Originally from Lahore, I have been living in the UAE for more than 20 years. I graduated with a BA in Mass Communication, with a concentration in Journalism, and a double minor in History and International Studies from the American University of Sharjah.If you see me out and about on assignment in Dubai, feel free to stop me, say hello, and we can chat about the latest kitten videos on YouTube.


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