The International Air Transport Association (IATA) highlighted the importance of overcoming airspace congestion, taking advantage of innovations with the New Distribution Capability (NDC) and aligning with the global industry strategy for reducing aviation’s climate change impact for the further successful development of aviation in the Middle East.
“The priorities are cooperation and competition. All the stakeholders must work together to ease the airspace congestion and reduce flight delays in the Gulf. We must stay aligned on the global strategy to reduce our climate change impact. And the region’s players need to prepare to take full advantage of a new era in airline distribution that will unleash innovation,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Tyler set out these challenges in his opening remarks at the IATA Middle East Aviation Day in Abu Dhabi. The gathering of top aviation leaders in the region also heard from H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport, and Etihad Airways President and CEO James Hogan
Cooperation on civil airspace capacity
According to IATA’s latest passenger forecast, the Middle East will continue to be one of the fastest growing regions in terms of passenger traffic, expanding 4.6% per year on average to 2034. “The Middle East region’s success is a testament to the tremendous investment in people, infrastructure and aircraft that has transformed air connectivity, particularly in the Gulf. But the growth brings challenges that must be met. Chief among them at the present time is cooperation to bring greater efficiency to air traffic management (ATM). The challenge is to look beyond merely national issues and focus on an even bigger picture – the strategic development of aviation across the entire Middle East,” said Tyler.
The growth in air transport movements is causing significant airspace congestion and that urgent measures are needed to be taken to improve matters. A strategic group, the Middle East ATM Enhancement Program (MAEP), exists to coordinate policy, operational and technological change, and states must commit to helping it succeed. “The challenge is to increase the overall efficiency of the ATM system of the region through improved airspace design and organization. Moreover, individual developments in ATM and airspace capacity are not enough: harmonization, integration and collaboration among aviation stakeholders is essential to realize the full potential of national projects,” said Tyler.
The dawn of airline retailing: Greater transparency and more options for passengers
Airline distribution is on the verge of a major modernization as the New Distribution Capability (NDC) standards begin to be implemented. NDC is the development of a modern, internet-based data standard for communications between airlines and travel agents. As a result, air travelers will benefit from greater transparency and access to all of an airline’s offerings when shopping via a travel agent or online travel site.
“The NDC standard will bring widespread advantages. Airlines will be able to bring innovations to market faster. Travel agencies will have a wider range of products and services to sell. And air travelers will benefit from greater transparency and access to all of an airline’s offerings when shopping via a travel agent or online travel site,” said Tyler.
Numerous pilot schemes are underway to implement NDC into airline operations, including an advanced trial with Qatar Airways. In a presentation ceremony during the morning of the Aviation Day, Rotana Jet was recognized for being the first airline in the Middle East to deliver transactions using the NDC standard. “NDC is the perfect illustration of how collaboration on global standards helps to spark even greater innovation and competition within the airline sector. And with their burgeoning reputation for service quality, I am sure Middle Eastern carriers will be well-placed to prosper with this new platform,” said Tyler.
Maintaining industry and government unity for aviation carbon reductions
With passenger numbers set to double over the next 20 years, the industry is facing greater pressure to implement environmental solutions. The aviation industry is committed to achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and cutting emissions 50% by 2050 compared to 2005. It has a credible four-pillar strategy to do so. The first three pillars – new technology, improved operations, and better use of infrastructure – have already brought results. The fourth pillar is something that only governments can deliver, through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO): a global market-based measure (MBM), such as a global offsetting scheme to drive carbon reductions.
“In September next year, the ICAO Assembly will make its decision on an MBM. In the hands of 190 states will be the power to make aviation’s carbon-neutral growth goal a reality. The stakes are high and I call on all governments in the region, and all aviation stakeholders, to remain united behind this vision, as the details are worked out,” said Tyler.