While President Obama has a full agenda, aviation policy must be among his top priorities, Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO said in a speech to the International Aviation Club of Washington. Bisignami outlined a prescription to help the U.S. aviation industry recover from the current crisis that is proving worse than the period following 9/11/2001.
Bisignani said putting the NextGen air traffic control system on a fast track would provide tremendous stimulus to the U.S., including 77,000 new jobs. The IATA chief also urged the Obama Administration to deliver broad policy changes in the areas of safety, security, environment and commercial freedoms, including airline exemption from the administrations cap and trade program.
“The industry situation remains bleak," said Bisignani. "With rising fuel costs and falling yields, recent optimism in the global economy has not appeared on the industry’s bottom line. Our future must be built on normal commercial freedoms, effective infrastructure, dedication to safety and environmental responsibility. Government bailouts are not the answer. Governments need a wake-up call to create a policy framework that supports a competitive air transport sector capable of driving economic expansion. But European governments are fixated on using environment as an excuse to squeeze more taxes out of the industry. And the US is not moving fast enough to deliver the critical advantages to competitiveness that NextGen air traffic management will bring.
“We don’t want bailouts," Bisgnani continued. "But we need governments to look more seriously at this sector by investing in efficient infrastructure, replacing the proliferation of environmental taxes with a global solution for the environment and giving airlines normal commercial freedoms to merge where it makes sense and to access markets and global capital like any other business."
The global accident rate through August is down 30 percent compared to the same period a year ago. “Getting on a plane is about the safest thing you can do,” Bisignani said. “But every fatality reminds us that we must do better.”
IATA called for greater cooperation between the U.S. and ICAO to break down silos and share safety information and data. “The US also needs to provide leadership based on global standards as the industry addresses the challenge of training aviation professionals. Evidence-based training and multi-crew pilot licensing have tremendous potential," said Bisignani.
IATA outlined three important steps the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can take in order to improve security and make the system more efficient. “The US must put an end to duplicate and conflicting data collection efforts by coordinating across DHS departments," said Bisignani. "Stakeholder consultation is essential. And to be effective, the focus must be on harmonized global standards."
In the area of cargo security, Bisignani warned that the 100 percent deadline for screening set for next year is at risk as the government has not yet certified the required tools to meet the objective.
Bisignani urged the Obama Administration to work together with the industry to reach the industry’s goal of carbon neutral growth from 2020. The aviation industry is united behind IATA’s Four Pillar Strategy of technology investment, efficient infrastructure, effective operations and positive economic measures. Aviation’s emissions are expected to fall by 7 percent in 2009— 5 percent as a result of the recession and 2 percent directly related to the strategy. U.S. contributions to emissions reductions are critical. Accelerating the implementation of NextGen air traffic management and creating the fiscal and legal framework to support investments in sustainable bio-fuels are two important steps. Bisignani warned that US proposals to include aviation in cap-and-trade legislation would be counterproductive.
"The U.S. must exempt aviation from its cap-and-trade proposal to give ICAO an opportunity to develop a global sectoral approach," Bisignani said. "If not, this punitive tax will not only undermine ICAO’s work, but it will also contravene the Chicago Convention and compromise the US’ ability to object to Europe’s unilateral inclusion of aviation in its emissions trading scheme. Environment is a global issue. Only a global solution will be effective."
“It has been three decades since the U.S. started the process of domestic deregulation,” Bisignani said. “This crisis highlights that we must finish the job.” He challenged some of the proposals in Congress, which would be counterproductive to that goal. “Tightening restrictions on alliances and antitrust immunity are protectionist and show a lack of understanding of aviation and how the global economy works," Bisignani. "These are symptoms of lost leadership. This crisis must be an opportunity to work with governments, including the US, to become safer, more secure, greener and profitable."