IATA chief sees possible 'bottleneck' in MENA skies

Tony Tyler says region must manage challenges of growth amid $100bn expansion plan
Middle East carriers led the world for growth in demand in October
By Andy Sambidge
Sat 03 Dec 2011 02:45 PM

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for a renewed focus on cooperation among aviation stakeholders in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region to manage the challenges of growth.

Despite a slowdown in growth this year, the future ofr the region's carriers "remains bright", said IATA's director general and CEO Tony Tyler.

But he said a planned $100bn investment in the region's airports could cause "potential bottlenecks in the sky if air navigation service providers are unable to keep ahead of the traffic growth".

"The challenge is made all the more difficult because it must be accommodated with just 40 percent of the airspace permanently open to civil aircraft. The rest of the airspace is controlled by the military and under restricted access or off-limits to civilian aircraft," he said.

He added that safety must be the top priority to tackle amid the rapid growth.

The Middle East region currently is experiencing one Western-built jet hull loss accident for every 1.2 million flights compared to a world average of one for every 2.7 million flights.

"The challenge of raising the region to the world standard is made more complex with growth. Global standards are the way forward on safety," he told aviation industry leaders at the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) Annual General Meeting in Abu Dhabi.

“The story for the MENA region is growth. In 2004 MENA carriers accounted for less than 7 percent of international traffic. Today it is over 11 percent," he said.

Tyler noted that the UAE is expecting 8.5 percent average annual growth through 2015.

“If that materialises, in 2015 it will handle 86.6 million international passengers — nearly 30 million more than in 2010. And it will be the 8th largest market for international travel,” he added.

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