Doha: While Oman is surrounded by successful aviation hubs, there is no reason why it, too, cannot become a hub in the region, according to a senior official of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and chief executive officer, made the remarks here yesterday at a media briefing during the 70th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the association. The AGM comes to an end on Tuesday.
Asked if Oman has the potential to become a regional aviation hub, Tyler said that he is not an expert and cannot make specific comments about the Sultanate, but noted, "We have seen across the Gulf that if you invest in the right way and you direct the aviation industry in the right way, you can become a very successful hub."
Of course, there are already three successful hubs very close to Oman and the competition is tough but "there is no reason to say it cannot do it if they really want to do that," the official said, noting that air traffic should be managed well by all Gulf countries.
Commenting on the contribution of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to the aviation industry overall, he said it is good given that three of the fastest growing airlines operate
in the Gulf.
On the missing Malaysian plane, he said that the association is working hard to make sure that such incidents do not happen again by developing more efficient tracking systems.
"It must not happen again. The IATA, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) and experts from around the world are working together to agree on the best options to improve global tracking capabilities. In September, a draft of recommendations will be forwarded to the ICAO," he said in his opening remarks.
It should be studied whether it is feasible to have every aircraft streaming all data at every phase of the flight, he told reporters.
In a press briefing before the start of the event, IATA's chief had said that Middle Eastern airlines are leading the industry in growth.
"In April, the region saw a 17.9 per cent expansion in passenger demand and 8.7 per cent growth in cargo. Much of that growth is being driven by the big three Gulf carriers, our AGM host Qatar Airways being among them," he said at the time.
In the opening speech of the meeting, Tyler said, "This year we will connect 3.3 billion passengers and 52 million tonnes of cargo over 50,000 routes with 100,000 flights a day."
He also noted that the industry supports over 58 million jobs and $2.4 trillion worth of annual economic activity.
"This year we expect airlines to achieve a collective global profit of $18 billion. That sounds impressive. But the brutal economic reality is that on revenues of $746 billion, we will earn an average net margin of just 2.4 per cent. That's less than $6 per passenger."
He also said that airline profits are improving.
"The average return on invested capital today is 5.4 per cent — up from 1.4 per cent in 2008. But we are still far from earning the 7-8 per cent cost of capital that investors would expect."
Tyler added that airlines help fund global aviation security with taxes and fees costing $8.55
billion a year.
"Even not all of this is spent on aviation security. And passengers still say that security remains their biggest travel hassle. Inconsistencies across jurisdictions defy understanding. The focus on prohibited objects sees law-abiding passengers treated with criminal suspicion. There is waste and inefficiency. We must do a better job."
This very day, 100,000 flights will take nine million people to somewhere that they want to go, he noted.
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