In an address to attendees of the Arab Air Carriers Organization Annual General Meeting, International Air Transport Association Director General and CEO Tony Tyler praised the Middle Eastern and North African aviation sector for achieving exponential growth and investing $100 billion in infrastructural improvements. Still, Tyler maintained, some roadblocks to success exist.
“The story for the MENA region is growth,” Tyler told conference attendees. “In 2004, MENA carriers accounted for less than 7 percent of international traffic. Today, it is over 11 percent. The double-digit growth trend of Middle East carriers over the last years has fueled this expansion.”
Although Tyler acknowledged that expansion slowed in the first 10 months of 2011 — highlighted by a 0.8 discrepancy between supply and demand — he said carriers in this region are poised for a bright future.
Ensuring that this bright future isn’t marred by bottlenecks, however, requires certain system improvements. One of them, Tyler said, is developing higher safety standards. “The Middle East region currently is experiencing one Western-built jet hull loss accident for every 1.2 million flights, compared to a world average of one for every 2.7 million flights,” he remarked.
“The challenge of raising the region to the world standard is made more complex with growth,” Tyler continued.
Nevertheless, he commended Middle Eastern carriers for implementing the IATA Operational Safety Audit and taking an active role in the execution of the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations.
In fact, Tyler revealed, the MENA region accounts for 27 of the 132 ISAGO registrations. “Along with being mandated by the government of Lebanon, relevant authorities in Kuwait, Jordan, the UAE and Oman have given ISAGO their endorsement,” he said. “I encourage others to follow.”
Tyler also addressed the necessity of air traffic control improvements. A key problem, he said, is that only 40 percent of MENA airspace is permanently available to civil aircraft. “The rest of [it] is controlled by the military and under restricted access or off-limits to civilian aircraft,” Tyler stated. “Cooperation in a coherent regional approach is needed to manage the growth safely and efficiently.”
Either way, Tyler envisions the MENA region becoming a major player in the global aviation market. It’s a projection that was further validated at the recent Dubai Air Show. Qatar agreed to purchase 88 narrow- and wide-body aircraft, along with two dedicated freighters, at the Dubai Air Show, with competitor Emirates Airline ordering 50 777-300ERs, the single largest aircraft order in Boeing’s history.