Under the patronage of His Highness the Amir of State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior HE Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani attended the opening of the 78th Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Air Transport Summit (WATS) at the Sheraton Doha Hotel on Monday.
In a speech, Minister of Transport HE Jassim bin Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti described the aviation industry as one that “unites the whole world by providing safe, secure, efficient, sustainable and accessible transportation.”
“This meeting is an exceptional opportunity to discuss the current situation and future challenges, particularly the focus on the sustainability agenda and how aviation moves forward with its commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Al Sulaiti added.
Thanking HH the Amir for extending his support of patronage, Qatar Airways’ Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said, “It is an absolute privilege to be hosting our industry partners in Qatar Airways’ home city, particularly during our milestone 25th year of operations. It is a particular honour to receive HH’s patronage, which shows just how proud Qatar is to hold this event. Coming together face-to-face with our aviation colleagues from across the world provides us with the opportunity to discuss global issues affecting us all today, and to plan the best way forward for the industry.”
Meanwhile, Director-General of IATA William M Walsh underscored the critical importance of the phase the aviation sector is in, indicating that airlines’ flexibility enhanced their ability to fulfil the demands associated with the increase in passenger numbers.
However, he noted that the cargo sector was performing well despite unstable economic conditions around the world. He said the sector is forecast to record losses of $9.7 billion, lower than last year, and profits in 2023.
He added that the sector is now going through a period of optimism despite the challenges related to costs, especially fuel, as well as restrictions that remain in some key markets.
The IATA Director-General highlighted that the aviation sector was affected by the pandemic as passenger numbers fell by 60 percent in 2020 and 50 percent in 2021, with airlines losing nearly $200 billion over two years.
He added that while some companies in the sector went bankrupt, others managed to return to making profits, thanks mostly to government subsidies. He said IATA had to move the venue of its AGM this year from Shanghai to Qatar, as China continues to battle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
He stressed the requirement for receiving government support to invest in this sector in a way that helps achieve the aspirations that IATA aspires to, economically and environmentally, stressing that his optimism was because governments would support the industry’s ambitions by agreement on an ambitious long-term goal at the upcoming ICAO Assembly.
He confirmed that suppliers, including airports and air navigation service providers, should focus on the issue of cost control, as their customers continue to support the recovery of the sector.
When asked about labor shortage in the industry Al Baker said, “As far as we are concerned, we don’t see any labour shortage in our company or in the region. I cannot talk about other airlines. But I know that Qatar Airways is inundated with applications to join the airline. Just to give you an example, we are currently in need of around 900 additional pilots because of our growth plan and we had 20,000 applications. However, this industry is neither built nor sat up to remote working, it needs hands-on people. So, I think this challenge will stay with this industry for some time to come.”
On the other hand, Walsh said that the situation faced today is not limited to airlines, many of the jobs in other businesses can’t be operated remotely, and flexibility is not the same as in other industries. It is probably an additional challenge.
“We will adjust, and we will look for new solutions. And to be honest, these challenges are insignificant to the challenges that we faced over the past two years. So as we came here today, we’re looking at an industry that is recovering and recovering strongly. We’re looking at an outlook that is positive. We’re looking at initiatives that will ensure that profitability. I think that’s a great story for our industry, the resilience that we have shown and the ability to recover as well as we’ve done.”
As commitment to sustainability is considered a high priority in the industry, as airlines move from commitment to action, it is critical for governments to support the aviation industry’s Fly Net Zero commitment, with consistent global policies that are focused on the same decarbonization goal.
“Aviation should not be the target for environmental issues while producing only 2.6 percent of CO2 emissions, and at the same time is being one of the major factors for the global economy,” said Al Baker.
“We were the first country in our region to sign a comprehensive air service agreement with the EU. It is over a period of over five years that we will gradually increase frequencies and achieve the open skies regime.”
Al Baker added that 2050 target will be very challenging, and he hopes airlines will be able to achieve it, as it is not guaranteed.
“It’s not only about airlines but also suppliers. We are committed to meeting all the targets, but it is also related to suppliers, it is a collective effort. We want to achieve this target, that’s why Qatar airways is constantly investing in new technology, we as an airline, not really promoting to the general public, we are targeting global warning” he noted