The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the White House and congressional politicians in the United States to take more aggressive short-term action to mitigate air traffic congestion and the lingering security hassles.
“President Bush’s recent announcement about making limited airspace changes in an attempt to alleviate congestion during the holidays is a political placebo for a serious long-term illness,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
He warned that there would likely be more air delays next Summer if the US government continues to move too slowly in making capacity and efficiency improvements. “Instead of addressing the problem, DOT wants to change the way people travel by making it more expensive at peak times,” Bisignani said.
The White House is considering peak pricing at New York JFK Airport as a band-aid for delays, but Bisignani said that “congestion pricing has never worked effectively for air transport anywhere in the world so it is foolhardy to believe that it will work in New York.”
Instead, the US government should implement the IATA Worldwide Scheduling Guidelines and immediately implement operational and infrastructure improvements. “There’s already a list of at least 75 projects that could begin tomorrow and we can’t wait any longer,” Bisignani said.
In a speech to the Aero Club of Washington, Bisignani urged industry leaders in Washington also to focus on security and the environment.
On the issue of security he said: “The industry is now paying US$5.9 billion a year – US$300 million higher than previous estimates – to comply with a growing list of security regulations. I see more hassle than value so let’s be open and transparent with the problems and the solutions. Too many knee-jerk security enhancement decisions are based on fear even though the threat hasn’t changed.
“We are wasting limited and precious resources. We need to cut through the government red tape and focus on harmonised processes around the globe and push for simplification. We must invest in new technology to help security become smarter, faster and easier to manage,” Bisignani said.
He said US air carriers have gone from industry sick-man to the most profitable of any region in the world. “This is an incredible turnaround but it’s too early to open the champagne. Airlines are US$200 billion in debt and we could be heading for an economic downturn with little cash in the bank to cushion the fall. US carriers are operating aging fleets and labour is also putting pressure on airlines. It is disturbing that as soon as the industry shows even fragile profits, labour starts to look for a free lunch. If labour pursues an agenda as an irresponsible adversary everybody’s future is limited,” said Bisignani.
On the environment, IATA’s four-pillar strategy to address climate change is: invest in technology; build and operate efficient infrastructure; fly planes efficiently; and then explore economic measures.
“Our goal is carbon neutral growth in the medium-term leading to zero carbon emissions. The US government was among the 179 states attending the Triennial Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which endorsed the strategy and IATA’s target to improve fuel efficiency 25% by 2020. Europe is our biggest disappointment, as it is fixated on emissions trading. This is against the Chicago Convention and I support the US in challenging this in the world’s courts,” Bisignani said.
“I also have to ring the warning bell. Don’t wait for a communications crisis to start talking about the environment. We have a solid track record and an ambitious vision to become a zero-emissions industry. Now is the time to communicate to help passengers and stakeholders understand that aviation is setting the highest benchmarks in environmental performance of any industry,” he said.