The power of aviation in a global community: IATA talks building bridges

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The aviation industry is gathered in Cancun, Mexico this week for its IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM), which includes plenty of boiler-plate conversations, plus some exciting and not-so-exciting sessions. But there are always a couple of briefings that grab your author’s attention; these highlight how aviation helps humanity.

This year the first such instance happened early, as Director General Alexandre de Juniac took to the stage to present the state of the industry in the AGM’s opening session. De Juniac wasted little time in his speech before getting to the core value proposition, and taking the opportunity to make a thinly veiled political statement about recent nationalistic and protectionist rhetoric:

Aviation is globalization at its very best. We help people to live better lives. And that includes many who will benefit from aviation without ever taking a flight. We can proudly say that Aviation is the business of freedom. The business of freedom depends on borders that are open to trade and to people. Today we face headwinds from those who would deny the benefits of globalization.

In parts of the world, nationalistic political rhetoric points towards a future of more protectionism. Whether those thoughts are government … or lurking at the fringe, they are a threat to our industry.

The tide of globalization may not have benefitted all equally. But as a leader we must bear witness to the achievements of our connected world. And we must ensure the benefits of aviation for future generations with ever safer and ever more sustainable operations.

De Juniac was not the only speaker in the morning session to take a shot at these protectionist policies. Before he took the stage, Aeromexico’s CEO Andres Conesa was elected as President of the proceedings as is traditional for the host airline of every AGM. Conesa took advantage of that position to highlight how the Joint Commercial Agreement his airline recently enacted with Delta Air Lines will help people and the two countries.

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 The agreement, he said, allows the airlines to build bridges across the Mexican border and more tightly connect Mexico and the United States in the face of the political rhetoric coming out of Washington DC. “Every time you open a flight, you build a bridge.”

His speech was followed by Dr. Aliu of ICAO presenting on behalf of his organization to the IATA attendees. Much like de Juniac and Conesa, Aliu spoke on the value of globalization and the importance of a consistent and common approach to meeting those goals.

Dr. Aliu highlighted the issues surrounding climate change and reminded the group that airlines have agreed to the CORSIA scheme that is separate from the Paris Climate Accord, limiting the impact of the US withdrawing from that agreement.

Dr. Aliu also called out the US and UK’s electronics ban on Muslim-majority nations, a sentiment that de Juniac echoed and expanded on later in the session.

The industry faces ever-growing threats from external and regulatory factors and border risks growing – Qatar’s isolation, for instance, remains a fresh topic that many are talking about but none officially so far.

The future of aviation as a major global force remains strong, but not without its challenges. In the face of difficulties, it is refreshing to be reminded of the good that aviation delivers.

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