A Message from Willie Walsh   IATA Director General
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A Message from Willie Walsh IATA Director General

Issue 18 - 2023
A Message from Willie Walsh   IATA Director General

It is good to be back here in Türkiye for what will be a stimulating AGM. Türkiye is a fast-growing market and a key connector for intercontinental travel. Türkiye’s rich history and culture is admired the world over and the country is attracting both tourism and business investment. This makes Istanbul the ideal location for industry leaders to address the industry’s most pressing challenges. 

This year’s AGM is held against a backdrop of industry recovery but wider economic and geopolitical uncertainty. The first quarter of this year ended on a strong note for air travel demand. Domestic markets have been near their pre-pandemic levels for months. And for international travel two key waypoints were topped. First, demand increased by 3.5 percentage points compared to the previous month’s growth, to reach 81.6% of pre-COVID levels. This was led by a near-tripling of demand for Asia-Pacific carriers as China’s re-opening took hold. And efficiency is improving as international load factors reached 81.3%. 

As traveler expectations build towards the peak Northern Hemisphere summer travel season, airlines are doing their best to meet the desire and need to fly. Unfortunately, a lack of capacity means that some of those travelers may be disappointed. Part of this capacity shortfall is attributable to the widely reported labor shortages impacting many parts of the aviation value chain, as well as supply chain issues affecting the aircraft manufacturing sector that is resulting in aircraft delivery delays. However, a significant share of recent flight cancellations, primarily in Europe, are owing to job actions by air traffic controllers and others. These irresponsible actions have resulted in thousands of unnecessary cancellations. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the authorities.

The air cargo story is more volatile. Most of the indicators for the fundamental drivers of air cargo demand are weak or weakening. While the trading environment is tough, there is some good news. Airlines are getting help in managing through the volatility with yields that have remained high and fuel prices that have moderated from exceptionally high levels. Looking ahead, with inflation reducing in G7 countries policy makers are expected to ease economic cooling measures and that would stimulate demand.

Airlines have demonstrated their resilience in bringing capacity back to match strong travel demand as the world opens again. But high inflation, economic slowdown, and the unpredictable situation regarding the war in Ukraine are all challenges for airlines to manage. Meanwhile the work to achieve our industry commitment to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 continues unabated. These issues will all be in focus during our discussions in Istanbul.

As we begin our AGM, we are deeply conscious of the trauma of the terrible earthquake which has devastated southern and central areas of Türkiye as well as parts of Syria. Many IATA members have been involved in assisting relief efforts and the delivery of aid. When crises strike, aviation is there. Connectivity is essential to get aid and first responders to where they are needed. Airlines helped save lives in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. And airlines continue to help accelerate the recovery with vital cargo shipments.

We extend our sympathies to our colleagues and friends in Türkiye at this difficult time. We hope our AGM can in some small way help to symbolize the recovery and resilience of Türkiye and its people from this tragedy. 

During crises, we bring hope, relief, and aid, striving to rebuild lives together. Each and every day, airlines make an enormous positive contribution to humanity by connecting people, cultures, businesses and economies. This fosters economic growth and social development.  With that in mind, we encourage all our stakeholders to join us in ensuring that aviation can fulfil this role by becoming ever more safe, secure, reliable and sustainable. I for one am proud to be part of an industry that makes such a difference. 

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