Doha, June 21 (QNA) - The 78th annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Air Transport Summit, which were hosted by Doha over the course of three days, concluded on Tuesday with a record attendance that included aviation sector leaders around the world and more than 150 international media outlets, during which they discussed the most important topics, issues and global trends related to the aviation sector to ensure a promising future.
During the closing press conference of the 78th annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Air Transport Summit, HE Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker and Chairman of IATA's 78th AGM and World Air Transport Summit confirmed that the annual meeting had very important discussions and focused on several prominent themes.
He said that the annual meeting witnessed the largest attendance of leaders of the aviation sector and discussed many axes regarding sustainable fuel, financial challenges and many things that the sector faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He stressed that everyone who belongs to IATA and is a partner in the aviation sector has great responsibilities in the next stage to move towards a safe and healthy air transport sector.
The World Air Transport Summit is the first non-virtual meeting in more than two years, he noted, adding that the discussions had a great positive impact in developing the necessary policies and standing on the most important challenges in the aviation sector at the optimum time, as the sector continues to face many operational and commercial challenges.
HE Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive pointed out that Qatar Airways is proud of achieving the highest percentage of profits at the level of companies in the world for the fiscal year 2021/2022, amounting to more than USD 1.5 billion, which is the highest financial performance of the company in its history.
He also pointed out that Qatar Airways is conducting research in cooperation with Qatar University to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), noting that there has been great progress over 10 years of work between the two sides.
His Excellency indicated that there were many decisions taken in favor of the global aviation sector during the General Assembly, which was held for the second time in the Gulf region, with Qatar as the only Gulf country to host this meeting after the 2014 edition.
Concluding, HE indicated that the aviation sector will recover in the coming years, but the most prominent challenges that still exist are related to the economic stagnation and high fuel prices, in addition to the difficulty in attracting new employees, which may be the next big challenge facing this sector.
During today's closing sessions, IATA called on governments to quickly put in place large-scale incentives to rapidly expand the use of sustainable aviation fuels. Today's sessions focused on operational and commercial challenges, and sustainability were among the main topics discussed, with a focus on the steps that the entire aviation sector will take to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
The three-day conference focused on the need for governments to adopt an ambitious long-term goal of decarbonizing aviation, as airlines chart the path for the industry's commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
They also discussed steps that can be taken to support global efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastics and address the challenges faced by the sector to offset carbon and use sustainable jet fuel.
IATA stressed that the global macroeconomic landscape is of great importance to the outlook for the sector, and these forecasts include the possibility of strong global GDP growth of 3.4% during 2022.
For his part, Director-General of International Air Transport Association (IATA) Willie Walsh expressed his hope that the global aviation sector will continue to recover in the coming period.
During the closing press conference of the 78th Annual General Meeting of IATA and the World Air Transport Summit, Walsh recommended that governments support the safe transportation of lithium batteries through the development and implementation of global standards for inspection and fire testing, as well as the sharing of accident information, as is the case with many products shipped by air.
He pointed out that sustainable aviation fuel represents a great opportunity for countries and contributes to the development of their energy independence, noting that people want to see low-carbon aviation as they expect industry and governments to work together, to achieve zero carbon by 2050, which is why excuses from fuel companies in switching to sustainable fuels will not be accepted.
He concluded his statements by pointing out the constant undergone work to raise the level of application of current standards, adding that rapid development of inspection standards and information exchange will give the aviation industry more effective tools, as well as develop a framework for managing safety risks specifically for transporting lithium batteries to improve handling and transportation across the supply chain.
The second and last day of the IATA conference addressed the rapidly expanded use of sustainable aviation fuels, which aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Director-General of IATA Willie Walsh also said that clean energy solutions are now cheap and widely available, and with incentives similar to sustainable aviation fuels, 30 billion liters of sustainable aviation fuels are expected to be available by 2030, adding that this will be a clear turning point towards aspirations to achieve net zero carbon emissions with ample amounts of this sustainable fuel at affordable prices.
Hydrogen and electric powered aircraft are part of aviation's plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, which is likely to be limited to short-distance routes, he noted, explaining that sustainable aviation fuel is a proven solution for long-distance flying.
IATA's Senior Vice President Sebastian Mikosz expressed the need to redouble efforts to engage all industry players, including governments, to increase production, availability and uptake.
On the other hand, during the last day of the conference, IATA urged governments to work closely with the aviation industry to ensure that aviation safety systems can safely coexist with new 5G services, pointing out that maintaining current levels of safety for passengers, flight crews and aircraft must remain a top priority for governments.
In this regard, Willie Walsh said that the recent experience in US must not be repeated, where the spread of band-spectrum services has caused significant disruption to aviation, due to the potential risks of interference with radio altimeters that are essential to landing aircraft and safety systems.
In another session, IATA called on governments to make use of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, for the public to regain its trust in the air transport industry, in order to be able to deal with health challenges in the future in a more effective manner, without the need to close down borders.
Regional Vice President of IATA Conrad Clifford said that it has become highly important to restore public confidence in the way governments deal with health crises and restrictions on movement across borders.
A large amount of the damage is due to sudden and ill-considered restrictions imposed by governments on movement across borders rather than the fear caused by the spread of the virus, Clifford said, adding that understanding the crucial lessons learnt from the pandemic will be central to how to deal with future health crises in a way that ensures that borders are not closed again.
He urged the world's governments to heed the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation on the need to keep borders open between countries, calling for an independent study on the effectiveness of policies that balance health measures with the social and economic benefits of air connectivity, with the aim of agreeing on a set of recommendations that can be adopted in dealing with future health crises.
Clifford concluded by pointing out that 71% of travelers believe that they should be able to travel now as they used to before the pandemic. As the return to normalcy accelerates, Clifford noted that we will go back to a world where our focus is on achieving sustainable growth for the aviation sector. He warned that this does not mean that governments and the air transport sector can forget the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with more health risks expected to emerge globally. Clifford pointed out that applying what was learned from the pandemic to future health crises is the best way to ensure that the sacrifices made by millions do not go to waste.
During its sessions on Tuesday, IATA asked governments to increase support for safe transportation of lithium batteries through developing and implementing international testing measures, and to trial fire emergencies, and exchange accident-related information.
IATA stressed the need for effective standards applied globally to ensure the safe shipment of many products by air, explaining that one major risk factor is accidents occurring due to unauthorized or incorrectly announced shipments.
IATA Director General Willie Walsh said that airlines, shippers, manufacturers and governments want to ensure the safe transportation of lithium batteries by air, as it is a shared responsibility.
He added that the quick development of testing measures and information sharing on fire extinguishing will provide the sector more effective tools in order to deal with these challenges.
On a similar note, Qatar Airways and Virgin Australia signed an agreement today on the sidelines of the conclusion of the IATA Annual General Meeting that aims to provide travelers with new features and an even smoother trip onboard both carriers. (QNA)