The International Air Transport Association (IATA) highlighted the importance of overcoming airspace congestion, taking advantage of innovations with the New Distribution Capability (NDC) and aligning with the global industry strategy for reducing aviation’s climate change impact for the further successful development of aviation in the Middle East.
"The priorities are cooperation and competition. All the stakeholders must work together to ease the airspace congestion and reduce flight delays in the Gulf. We must stay aligned on the global strategy to reduce our climate change impact. And the region’s players need to prepare to take full advantage of a new era in airline distribution that will unleash innovation," said Tony Tyler, Director General and Chief Executive Officer, IATA.
The executive set out these challenges in his opening remarks at the IATA Middle East Aviation Day in Abu Dhabi. The gathering of top aviation leaders in the region also heard from H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport, and Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan
According to IATA’s latest passenger forecast, the Middle East will continue to be one of the fastest growing regions in terms of passenger traffic, expanding 4.6 per cent per year on average to 2034. "The Middle East region’s success is a testament to the tremendous investment in people, infrastructure and aircraft that has transformed air connectivity, particularly in the Gulf,” said Tyler, but noting thegrowth brings challenges that must be met.
“The challenge is to look beyond merely national issues and focus on an even bigger picture – the strategic development of aviation across the entire Middle East," he added.
The growth in air transport movements is causing significant airspace congestion and that urgent measures are needed to be taken to improve matters. A strategic group, the Middle East ATM Enhancement Program (MAEP), exists to coordinate policy, operational and technological change, and IATA said states must commit to helping it succeed.
"The challenge is to increase the overall efficiency of the ATM system of the region through improved airspace design and organization. Moreover, individual developments in ATM and airspace capacity are not enough: harmonization, integration and collaboration among aviation stakeholders is essential to realize the full potential of national projects," explained Tyler.
Airline distribution is also on the verge of a major modernisation as the New Distribution Capability (NDC) standards begin to be implemented. NDC is the development of a modern, internet-based data standard for communications between airlines and travel agents. As a result, air travellers will benefit from greater transparency and access to all of an airline’s offerings when shopping via a travel agent or online travel site.
"The NDC standard will bring widespread advantages. Airlines will be able to bring innovations to market faster. Travel agencies will have a wider range of products and services to sell. And air travellers will benefit from greater transparency and access to all of an airline’s offerings when shopping via a travel agent or online travel site," said Tyler.
Numerous pilot schemes are underway to implement NDC into airline operations, including an advanced trial with Qatar Airways. In a presentation ceremony during the morning of the Aviation Day, Rotana Jet was recognized for being the first airline in the Middle East to deliver transactions using the NDC standard.
"NDC is the perfect illustration of how collaboration on global standards helps to spark even greater innovation and competition within the airline sector. And with their burgeoning reputation for service quality, I am sure Middle Eastern carriers will be well-placed to prosper with this new platform," said Tyler.
Capacity analysis highlights the rapid rise of Middle East market
According to OAG schedule data, intra-Middle Eastern capacity has almost doubled over the past ten years rising at an average annual rate of 8.3 per cent between 2005 and 2014. It will grow a further 3.8 per cent this year, based on published schedules, to over 100 million departure seats for the first time ever.
However, it is the market from the Middle East to other destinations outside the area that is showing the strongest growth, buoyed by the expansion of the big three Gulf hub carriers, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.
Departure seats from the Middle East to the rest of the world were up 172.1 per cent between 2005 and 2014, an average annual rise of 19.1 per cent. This market will also grow beyond 100 million this year with a forecasted rise of 13.5 per cent, the eighth double-digit year-on-year rise in the past ten years and the highest annual growth rise since 2008.