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Chairman's message H.E. Akbar Al Baker, Chair, IATA Board of Governors & CEO Qatar Airways

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Future air travel must be effortless and sustainable

What were your top priorities as IATA Chairman?

It was to represent, lead, and serve our industry with strength and humility.

IATA plays a very important part in our industry. As a crucial instrument for airlines, it is important that members, governments, and the general public perceive IATA in the right way. This is not just a rubber stamp organization. But we’ve started the process to improve the association’s activities and it was my privilege and duty during the past year to make sure that we kept on developing initiatives while providing greater accountability and enhanced oversight.

Together with the board of governors, there was a continued effort to ensure that these improvements endure in the long term.

Where do you see the most important future innovations for the airline industry?

IATA has a number of important projects underway. New Distribution Capability, One ID, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), for example, are innovations which will make future travel effortless and seamless for passengers. And they will do so while also bringing efficiencies into our industry and letting airlines keep their brand and identity.

An effortless travel experience will be so important going forward. Travelers are becoming tired of overregulation, the endless processing they must suffer, and the laborious security checks. Let me be clear, I don’t blame the authorities for these thorough processes when our world is passing through a very difficult time. But the industry, through IATA, can speak in one voice and help authorities and regulators achieve our shared security goals, while improving the passenger experience.

What steps should the industry take to earn a better reputation for sustainability?

The most important thing is the leadership with CORSIA. The industry has long been a leader in environmental efforts and aims to halve net carbon emissions by 2050 compared with 2005.

It is important to the future of our industry and to the future of our children and grandchildren that there is enough investment by aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers, and other supply chain partners to produce equipment that promotes sustainability and makes our industry more efficient.

There is growing pressure on the environmental performance of aviation and the industry must continue to do all it can. But people who shun aviation or who think aviation should be taxed don’t realize what an economic collapse would happen. Aviation supports 65 million jobs and $2.7 trillion in global GDP. Without this unique means of transportation, people will not be able to cross the world to do business, toboost local economies, or to meet their loved ones.

Do governments fully appreciate the contribution of aviation?

Governments are using aviation as a cash cow. For example, they collect taxes for the environment but what do they do with the money? Nobody knows. If governments were really serious about the environment, they would comply with the international agreements that they sign. Instead, they hit aviation with so-called green taxes to meet general budgetary requirements and do nothing for the environment. So they are taking the money from us but doing very little.

Governments must reinvest the money from environmental taxes in the industry to help us achieve further sustainability success.

Any final thoughts on the year?

I’d like to thank all my colleagues on the IATA Board for their active participation throughout the year, and their commitment to building a safer, stronger, and better industry. I must make a particular mention of Mr. Yang Ho Cho, Chairman and CEO of Korean Air, who sadly passed away in April. He will be much missed from the IATA Board, by his airline colleagues, and most of all by his family and friends. His contribution to aviation and to Korea was incalculable.

IATA plays a very important part in our industry. As a crucial instrument for airlines, it is important that members, governments, and the general public perceive IATA in the right way.