Telling aviation’s story

July and August remind me of the many great things that aviation makes possible. We are a force for good in the world, driving progress, growth, and wealth — both material and of the human spirit.

As much of the northern hemisphere goes on holiday, airlines facilitate family reunions, journeys of discovery, and renewal of friendships separated by distance. Of course, at the same time, the business of the planet continues, also powered by aviation’s connectivity.

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Global mobility is already taken for granted as part of the fabric of modern life. And our young and growing industry has only begun to deliver on its potential. But having worked in the industry for over three decades, I know first-hand that airlines face many challenges.

Safety is always at the top of the list. And then there is the constant struggle to keep revenues ahead of costs. It is no secret that the airline industry is financially fragile, and this year the prognosis is not encouraging. On US$600 billion in revenue, we expect a US$4 billion profit. We need to do better than a 0.7% margin.

My mission at IATA (International Air Transport Association) is to make the world a better place for airlines to do business. By focusing attention on aviation’s amazing achievements and even more awesome potential, we can inspire governments, suppliers, employees, passengers, agents, shippers —the whole value chain — to be stronger partners that together deliver value, promote prosperity, and share success.

Cooperation on climate change is a good example of what can be achieved.

Aviation contributes 2% of manmade carbon emissions.

The whole value chain — airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, and manufacturers — is committed to cut aviation’s emissions in half by 2050. No other global industry has made such a commitment.

Our commitment is not just words. We are delivering measureable results. Over the last decade, fuel efficiency improved 24% with increasingly efficient routings and aircraft. Now we could be at the start of a game-changing revolution that could cut our carbon footprint by up to 80% with the recent certification of sustainable biofuels for commercial use.

These positive industry efforts can only be brought to their conclusion with the support of governments. They hold the key to creating the fiscal and legal frameworks to make sustainable biofuels a commercial reality at competitive prices.

Aviation must engage governments much more compellingly, not just on climate change but on a host of other issues. Fighting excessive taxation and mis-regulation, breaking bottlenecks with infrastructure improvements, securing the industry without hassling our passengers, and ensuring the level playing field and commercial freedoms that airlines need to do business, to name just a few.

I am passionate about aviation and proud to tell its good story as a means of rallying the industry and governments to positive change. As I begin my tenure as IATA’s director general and CEO, I thank you for supporting me in this cause.

Tony Tyler is the current chief executive officer and director general of the International Air Transport Association. The above article is reprinted from Airlines International, August-September 2011.