Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, a French businessman, previously served as the Chairman and CEO of Air France and later as CEO of Air France–KLM. He shares his insights on sundry issues concerning air transport in Africa in this interview on the sidelines of the just concluded IATA’s 75th Annual General Meeting in Seol, South Korean. Excerpt:
Africa is struggling with The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM); it is neither here nor there for now. 28 countries have signed up to SAATM. We still have a long way to go and the agreement seems to be slow; what are the impediments to achieving SAATM?
I think they are similar to those of Yamoussoukro Declaration which have been there since 20 years ago. First, it is a political reason.
You are touching on a subject that has sovereignty and economic reasons because some of the incumbent airlines owned by governments want to protect their airspace and their operators against what they perceive as threatening competition.
They also think that it will kill any initiative of national carrier and the reasons they don’t want to open their borders.
It is all about political control and sovereignty issues.
Africa is not the only place where the cost of fuel is high. India is same. In Brazil, which is a big oil producing country, the costs are high. We lobby everywhere. It is such an important cost factor for us
But that has affected African carriers and made them very weak, small and fragmented. Is IATA pushing for them to relax their hard stance?
We will push further. We think that any initiative that is favourable to our opening the sky is generally good for everybody.
It generates traffic; it brings prosperity and builds GDP.
Can you share your data on congestion at the airports?
International Air Transport Association (IATA) talked about congestion in European airspace and calculated it that just minutes of the delay runs into about 36 years of congestion.
Is there a cooperation between IATA and African Airlines Association (AFRAA)?
We are an international body. We deal with AFCAC, AFRAA, ADB and our efforts led to the release of funds by the African Development Bank to the Africa Union to support the conducting of the different kinds of study in all of Africa in how to develop their skies.
We have seen that in Europe. People are opposing Open Skies
We understand that many governments might go for privatisation to attract private funds because they don’t have the budget and public funds to finance the airports. We understand them. We ask them to be careful because privatisation is not a magic solution
What kind of challenges do airline operators have with fuel?
It differs from each state to another. What make the fuel price expensive are physical and fuel contributes about 30 per cent of the cost to airlines.
We urge states to reduce by all means what make fuel price expensive by removing physical restrictions on fuel supply.
Taxes, supply chain and others have made fuel price to go up. Africa is not the only place where the cost of fuel is high. India is same.
In Brazil, which is a big oil producing country, the costs are high. We lobby everywhere. It is such an important cost factor for us.
According to IATA projection, passenger traffic in Africa will double in 2025. There is a desire to have an infrastructure.
In most African countries, the governments cannot build airports; IATA is not pleased with the idea of so much concession.
We tell governments that they have to manage with infrastructure. We have several ways of doing and they should be cautious before rushing to privatisation.
We have management contracts, concession contracts before selling the assets. We urge governments to consider all options. If they have chosen some of the solutions that are provided by the guidelines we have to tell them.
We have seen so many bad experiences and good ones. We have been able to give them the best guidelines for best practices.
We understand that many governments might go for privatisation to attract private funds because they don’t have the budget and public funds to finance the airports.
We understand them. We ask them to be careful because privatisation is not a magic solution.
On SAATM, we have 28 countries that have signed. I think the major challenge is the arbitrary charges. A Nigerian airline flying to Ghana or Senegal may face outrageous charges and discourage it from coming, is IATA looking at uniform charges?
There are no uniform charges. At least, there are ICAO principles and we try to make these principles apply in each country on charges. ICAO has prepared standard and we ask them to implement the world’s standards.