DEBATE: Critical Issues in Air Transport

Following the recent debate at World Routes in Chicago this year regarding critical issues in air transport, we have decided to revisit the subject, and ask the community - What do you think is the most pressing issue in the aviation industry today.

The original debate, which you can see here began by discussing the two Malaysia Airlines flights, MH17 and MH370, and the security issues behind both the accident and the missing aircraft.

One of the greatest issues in air travel discussed in the media in previous months has been almost entirely dedicated to the Malaysian flights. The world began asking questions, much the same as when the 9/11 tragedy occurred, as to why aircraft are not in constant communication with ground control.

In light of the MH370 tragedy, which saw an aircraft go missing in March this year, the question is posed: why are aircraft not continuously tracked throughout the entire journey? Many of the same questions were posed after flight MH17 was tragically shot down by a missile. Why was the airline flying over a known conflict zone?

Are airlines not being given enough information from their governments, or is it the airline’s fault for ignoring security warnings and proceeding with potentially dangerous routes?

However, the discussion at World Routes in Chicago reminded us that air travel is the safest form of travel in the world, and accidents such as MH370 and MH17 are unprecedented.

Critical Issues in Air Transport Today – Are We Making Progress?

Thomas Windmuller, SVP Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, IATA, who sat in the conference said: “When accidents happen, we learn from these accidents.”

Which is the most critical issue in air transport today?

David Scowsill, President and CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council said: “If you look at IATA’s reports, there is no ‘blip’ forecast, the airline industry is very resilient,” he said with regards to negative impact on the industry following the Malaysian airline disasters.

The greatest issue, flagged by attendees to the conference was the dispute on infrastructure challenges. The discussion brought the idea that continents such as Asia are not keeping up with expected growth. Countries such as Singapore and Malaysia are managing to keep up with the trends, but other Asian countries are struggling.

The argument that some governments are incapable of thinking ahead of the current government, and therefore cannot plan for 20 – 30 years ahead seemed to be reoccurring. Some governments, such as the UK, cannot and will not plan ahead of their current government, and do not favour the long-term effects of the economy and airport infrastructure.

However other governments, such as in China, have built their infrastructure ahead of the curve, but haven’t taken into account airspace capacity.

Thomas Windmuller added: “Some countries have not ‘got it’ when it comes to traffic control and airspace capacity. Airspace capacity is not keeping up with the airport capacity,” he said.

One of the final issues raised was with regards to visa regulations. The UK was scrutinised for its visa regulations: “I don’t think the UK want tourists, why would they make them get an extra visa for a European trip, or make them pay departure taxes?” said Thomas Windmuller.

The UK’s APD taxes which have sparked recent debate in Scotland, were raised as an issue in air transport, alongside Brazil’s airline taxes, which make up 37% of the cost of a Brazilian airline ticket for taxes on fuel etc.

After 100 years of commercial aviation, it’s clear the industry has evolved tremendously. However, the issues raised at the World Routes Strategy Summit, among issues raised everyday in the industry and the media indicate some of the critical issues in air transport.

Vote in our poll, and tell us which you consider the most pressing issue in air transport. You can also comment below or on Twitter with your views on the current status of air transport, and tell us which you think is most important for industry progression, and why.

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