IATA addresses African flight sector

African carriers have long been criticized for their high accident rate, despite significant progress. Key to changing this perception, International Air Transport Association Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said, is continued partnership with the International Civil Aviation Organization and local authorities.

“We must work together to ensure that every government in the continent understands aviation as an engine for sustainable development and a key pillar of economic strategy,” Tyler said in a speech to the African Airlines Association. “Africa will benefit greatly by harnessing the power of a successful aviation industry.”

Although African carriers won’t repeat last year’s performance — in which they profited $100 million — IATA officials expect them to break even in 2011. Next year may prove to be even more challenging for these airlines, however, as IATA executives forecast losses to the tune of $100 million.

Officials for Kenya Airways aren’t deterred by these projections, though. The East African carrier, which recently announced plans to acquire two Boeing 777-300 ERs, will utilize the aircraft on its long-haul routes to Amsterdam, Bangkok, Guangzhou and Dubai, a spokesman for the airline said. Deliveries are slated for October 2013 and May 2014, respectively.

Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni believes the increased passenger and cargo capacity afforded by these aircraft will boost the carrier’s profitability tremendously. “This also speaks to Kenya Airways’ efforts of flying a more efficient and environmentally friendly fleet,” Naikuni said in a statement.

Tyler lauded such environmental initiatives in his address to the AFRAA. In addition to encouraging African carriers to work together to improve sustainability, he urged AFRAA members to invest in biofuels. Tyler also reiterated IATA’s message of reducing carbon emissions through a global protocol established by the ICAO and opposing the European Union emissions trading scheme.

Tyler said joining forces with global aviation leaders will also help regional carriers fulfill the African Safety Summit’s goals for 2015: reducing their accident rate to the global average and getting removed from the European list of banned airlines. After all, he remarked, “Implementing global standards and best practices — as we do with the IATA Operational Safety Audit — delivers results.”

Not that Tyler believes banning carriers improves safety. “Nonetheless, the list of banned airlines is a political reality that is not going to disappear,” he continued. “And improving safety is incumbent on all in this industry. So we need to work together.”

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