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Top airline leaders were greeted with sobering news at the general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Beijing. The influential trade organization, which advocates for the interests of 240 airlines, announced it expects industry profits to plummet to 3 billion dollars, down from 7.9 billion last year.
High oil prices and the eurozone crisis were cited as contributing factors to the bleak outlook. Director General Tony Tyler said IATA is doing what it can to help.
“Through our lobbying efforts we’ve managed to persuade some governments and some airports to keep charges down,” he said. “Whenever we see costs going up we’re onto it in a flash.”
For Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh, IATA was a chance to meet with customers and share with them Boeing’s dedication to improving the industry’s bottom line.
“The real driver in the cost of doing business is the cost of fuel,” he said. “We have the most energy-efficient airplanes in the world and that’s why customers turn to us.”
Boeing was represented on two panel discussions at IATA.
Stephen Emmert, a BCA Biofuels Strategy regional director, discussed the commercialization of biofuels, which come from sustainable sources like plants. He stressed their importance in reducing carbon emissions and the cost benefit to airlines.
“Biofuels are less dependent on the price of oil so there’s less volatility in the pricing that can happen as oil prices fluctuate,” he said.
Travis Sullivan, a BCA Business Development & Strategic Integration vice president who oversees international strategy, talked about the links between commercial aviation and economic development around the world.
Aviation is recognized as a significant source of economic benefit, said Sullivan, a former official at the U.S. Commerce Department. The Air Transport Action Group, an industry trade organization, estimates that commercial aviation generates 8.4 million direct jobs and supports 56 million jobs around the world. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration says civil aviation contributes about 5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).
At the same time, the commercial aviation industry can do more to ensure that governments fully recognize its value.
“When our industry is aligned on key ‘growth’ issues and can mobilize other stakeholders -- from manufacturers and suppliers to Chambers of Commerce, the travel industry and airport retailers -- to support those issues as well, we strengthen our ability to advocate for policies that enable and expand our industry’s economic impact,” Sullivan said.