Air traffic congestion in GCC a growing concern: IATA

 06 Oct 2017 - 0:00

Air traffic congestion in GCC a growing concern: IATA

By Mohammad Shoeb / The Peninsula

Growing air traffic congestion in the GCC airspace is a pressing issue which can be a major hurdle for the growth and expansion of airlines in the region. If not addressed timely, the average Air Traffic Management delay may go up to an hour over the next few years, noted a top official of International Air Transport Association (IATA), yesterday.
The aviation sector of the Middle East and Africa region, including the GCC, contributes significantly in terms of GDP and employment, and still has great potential for growth provided some key issues are addressed on priority basis.
“Air Traffic Management (ATM) is an issue of pressing concern. Studies show that the average ATM delay in the Gulf is 29 minutes with the potential to double by 2025. And the diplomatic row in the GCC has further exacerbated the problem,” said Muhammad Ali Albakri (pictured), IATA’s Regional Vice-President for the Middle East & Africa.
“Without an increase in the overall efficiency of the ATM systems in the region through improved airspace design, Mena’s world-class hubs will be compromised with gridlock. We appreciate the many programmes that are in progress, including the GCC Air Navigation Committee, the ‘Middle East ATM Enhancement Program’ and others. But we must drive these efforts even harder to achieve a real breakthrough,” added Albakri.
He also noted that cooperation between states to achieve change is paramount. “Regional governments cannot allow their geographical fragmentation and political complexity to get in the way of finding a long-term solution.”
The IATA, which represents nearly 265 airlines comprising 83 percent of global air traffic, highlighted five key priorities, including ATM, which must be addressed in order for aviation to deliver maximum economic and social benefits in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.
Aviation currently supports 2.4 million jobs in the Mena region and contributes $157.2bn in GDP.
“Aviation has the power to generate significant prosperity. A safe, secure, efficient and sustainable air transport industry pays huge social and economic dividends. But despite the vast benefits enabled by aviation connectivity, the operating environment for airlines in MENA remains challenging,” said Albakri speaking at the IATA Middle East and Africa Aviation Day in Jordan.
He also noted that passenger demand is set to expand by 5.7 percent each year on average over the next 20 years, to become a market of 380 million passengers in 2035.
He urged the region’s governments to address key challenges, so that aviation is able to support this growth.
Commenting on the issue of rising taxes and charges, he said that there has been a recent proliferation of new charges and taxes in the Middle East that added $1.6bn in extra costs in 2015 and 2016.
IATA urged governments in the region to establish a charges consultation process in line with ICAO’s policies which highlight the key principles of non-discrimination, cost-relatedness, transparency and consultation.
“Excessive taxes and charges affect the ability of aviation to meet demand and impede economic growth. Governments will earn more revenues in the long-term by promoting aviation through lower taxes,” he said.
He also urged governments to address issues related to security to keep flying safe and secure by promoting and adapting smarter regulation to avoid unintended consequences when designing or implementing aviation policies.
The Aviation Day in Jordan was attended by a broad spectrum of aviation stakeholders from governments, policy makers, regulators, airlines and manufactures as well as a number of VIP guests.