Closing borders and restricting airlines from flying is not good news for the aviation industry, says IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.
“That said, I agree that the governments have the right to close their borders – they can do it…but it is certainly not good news for the industry,” de Juniac said in an interview with Gulf Times at his office in Geneva.
Emphasising that the blockade on Qatar would have an impact on the whole region, he said, “Uncertainty, instability and geopolitical risks are not favourable for the industry and the region (GCC).
“People hesitate to book a flight or spend a vacation in the region. The three Gulf carriers have more connecting than originating passengers.”
De Juniac stressed that “it is not a positive element for the region and for the airlines operating from and to the region.
“As always, we have the normal uncertainties of aviation – disasters, epidemic, etc. Plus in this region, we have geopolitical instability. That’s an additional one.”
The IATA chief reiterated the stand of the global trade body of airlines that Qatar’s connectivity with the rest of the world be re-established.
“We wish to see normal connectivity between Qatar and the rest of the world be restored. We have always said that.
“We have practically helped ICAO find appropriate corridor for Qatar Airways and for airlines flying to Qatar to have access to the country.”
He said geopolitical instability and the threats hovering above the region are “not a strong encouragement” to develop air traffic.
“The most dynamic actors (in the GCC) have been able to cope with that; overcome the situation so far. But more the instability you have, the less attractiveness for air traffic the region will be.”
Asked whether the regional situation has adversely affected the GCC-based carriers, de Juniac said, “They have been affected not just by instability alone. After having grown at an incredible pace, often at double-digits, they are now entering into more normal waters. They are growing like their peers elsewhere.”
The region’s airline industry, however, would continue to grow, but at a “comparable rhythm” like others, said the former chairman and CEO of Air France and later CEO of Air France–KLM. “The region certainly is not stable, especially these days,” he said.
For de Juniac and his IATA team, “safety is the top priority.” Global standards are at the core of the industry’s strong safety performance, he said.
Aviation is the safest way to travel long distances. Each day more than 100,000 flights operate safely.
“In the first half of this year there were a total of three fatal accidents.”
Earlier, making a presentation at the Global Media Day, de Juniac touched on the ban on portable electronic devices.
“The ban, earlier this year, on large portable electronic devices in the cabin is a great illustration of the challenges that we face in dealing with governments—who have the prime responsibility for security. The initial actions by the US and the UK were taken unilaterally and caught the industry by surprise. “And the implementation was painful for all concerned. After dialogue started, however, alternative measures to the ban were found. The key message here is the importance of industry consultation,” de Juniac said.
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