Air traffic gridlock a global problem
DOHA — Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO, conceded that air traffic congestion remained a global problem, with the Gulf region too being hampered by a lack of harmonization of a standard amid a tremendous growth of the industry in the region.
Tyler made this statement at a round table with journalists at the 70th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit here on Tuesday.
“Gulf states have done well compared to others with new and bigger airports in Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi in addition to an increase in investment in infrastructure. The growth in turn has increased traffic congestion in the region and this needs to be addressed,” Tyler said. “We’ve to understand the issue and move fast to integrate.”
When asked to elaborate on his earlier statement that Eurocontrol, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, is a possible integration model to study, he said, “Though its is good model, it works mostly as a network manager. Europe, however, remains fragmented with nearly 60 centers that does not afford for seamless traffic management.”
“Eurocontrol coordinates and plans air traffic control in Europe by working with national authorities, air navigation service providers, and other organizations. And that would not be workable in Gulf. We have to have an understanding of the problem and move fast for a solution,” he said.
He cited the example of Saudi Arabia managing the traffic over Empty Quarter, which could emerge as a model that would help ease air traffic congestion. “They have introduced sound management, and have upgraded the system. The advent of new technology could lead to better coordination and an effort to harmonize navigation in the region.”
He also said airlines are coming together in new alliances, but each airlines follow their own business strategies to enhance their position. But Gulf carriers are becoming big players with most airlines developing hubs.
“The geographical advantage and the technological advances have made them big players not only in the region, but on the global stage,” he said, adding that consolidation of airlines nor disappearance of smaller carriers were on the cards as airlines had a way of getting around consolidation with joint ventures and other strategy.
Regulatory structure prevents consolidation
“That’s the way of the future. That’s the direct ion most airlines are taking,” he said. “An improved industry structure is among the factors supporting strengthened performance. Our customers expect efficient global connectivity. But the regulatory structure prevents the global consolidation that has happened in other industries,” Tyler said.
He reiterated the industry’s commitment to working together and with governments in the constant pursuit of improved safety. IATA, ICAO, and experts from around the world are working together to identify the best recommendations for improved global tracking. By September, we will deliver draft options to ICAO,” said Tyler.
When asked who will bear the cost, the airlines or the governments, of implementing the tracking standard, Tyler said: “ We need to first see what options are there for solving the problem cost-efficiently. The cost would not be a problem for the airlines to sustain safety.”
In another session, Glyn Hughes, director Cargo Industry Management, explained why air cargo is critical emphasizing that it is a vital part of the global economy; it save lives; supports social development; contributes to airlines profitability and supports airport economic s, local jobs.
He said the impact of air cargo is immense on the global economy and is a significant component that has enabled airlines increase their profits.
Hussein Dabbas, IATA regional vice president of Africa and Middle East, while stating that though there has been a fantastic growth in the region, most of the growth has been in the Gulf. The Arab Spring has left an impact on traffic in Syria, Egypt and Jordan with cut in tourist and transit numbers. However, Egypt and Jordan are seeing a rebound.
“Traffic to Syria has dropped to 1 percent while the numbers are leveling off in Egypt and steadily reviving in Jordan,” Dabbas said.
Dabbas stressed the need for a quick solution the traffic congestion issues as the industry grew in leaps and bounds. “IATA has identified the issues which is having an impact on on-time performance, lot of costs related to the issue and consumption of fuel during waiting.”
He said the emergence and growth of low cost carriers in the region have proved skeptics wrong and have created a niche market. With the LCC and the Legacy carriers expanding fast, it is only the traveling people who have benefitted.
Industry-owned air transport communications company SITA also said it was developing a new tracking system that uses technology already installed in aircraft and SITA’s dispatch and operations systems. It said the system was currently being evaluated by several airlines and because it uses systems that are already installed, it won’t mean extensive costs for airlines. For airlines though, a big issue will be ensuring costs for any technology do not spiral out of control, given the industry’s already tight profit margins, nor does it get passed down to the paying passengers.