Airline lobby promises new era of openness

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am


Tony Tyler, who was unanimously elected yesterday as the new head of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), has pledged to take onboard calls for greater transparency and involvement by smaller carriers in the world's biggest airline lobby group.

Tyler, who stepped down as Cathay Pacific Airways chief executive on March 28 to take over the Iata role, said there was 'a clear mood' for involvement by airlines, which 'overall's a good thing'.

Speaking after being confirmed as the next Iata director-general and chief executive at the end of Iata's annual general meeting yesterday, Tyler said: 'I'm happy to be more transparent ... I will certainly do what I can.' He added that he would also have to take into account views of Iata's board of governors.

Tyler was responding to calls from several airlines in the Middle East on Monday for greater clarity and more dialogue between the Iata leadership and its member carriers during discussion about Iata's 2010 financial statements.

Among the concerns outlined by Akbar al-Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, was the lack of detail about certain expenditure, including US$58 million on data processing and US$18 million on travel in the IATA accounts.

Commenting on the discussions about IATA, Tim Clark, head of Emirates Airlines, added: 'Clearly, there is the view that this is an entity run for the few by the few. That has to end.'

Aside from promising to be more open, Tyler, who takes over from Giovanni Bisignani from July 1, avoided questions about his visions or goals for IATA which represents about 230 airlines operating 93 per cent of scheduled international flights.

'It's too early to say what changes' he would introduce, he said. Instead, his focus would be to 'concentrate on how IATA gets things done, ask questions, listen and learn' for the first several months.

IATA's members are facing a raft of challenges including the introduction of an emissions trading scheme in Europe, which is expected to increase costs, affecting airline profitability and security issues.

'My goal is to make the world a better place for airlines to do business,' Tyler said, adding that while the aviation industry has 'been going for 100 years, but really it's only just got started'.

He also voiced support for the development of a third runway in Hong Kong, echoing the support given by Bisignani in early June when he pointed out: 'Aviation is a critical part of Hong Kong's economy. It connects 1,300 regional head offices to their markets and gives Hong Kong an important global presence as a major gateway to China.

'There are lots of competitors for the growing aviation business and the economic opportunities that come with it. Beijing completed an expansion of its airport in 2008 that increased capacity to about 82 million and already there are plans for another mega airport to serve the city's growing needs ... To grow and remain competitive, Hong Kong needs to build as well.'

Tyler's appointment as the next head of IATA was welcomed by China Southern Airlines, British Airways, FedEx and other airlines. Zhao Xiaosong, vice-president of international affairs and alliances for China Southern, said Tyler represented a bridge between airlines in the West and the East.

Outlining the rising importance of Asia, Bisignani has said the region would be the biggest air travel market in the world by 2014, accounting for 30 per cent of passenger demand, compared with North America with 23 per cent of passengers. Bisignani reiterated that this growth gave Asian airlines an increased responsibility to take a greater role in aviation industry decision-making.