(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Gulf airlines, growing at an "amazing" pace, have been driving the Middle East's traffic growth to double digits, according to the International Air Transport Association, or Iata.
The Middle East and North Africa region is a growing force in aviation; over the last decade, the Middle East's share of global international traffic has risen from about five per cent to about 11.5 per cent, Iata director-general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler said.
"The rise of the Gulf carriers is an amazing story. They are leading Middle East traffic growth that is still in the double digits. And even if we look at the less-headline-grabbing carriers in North Africa, we are seeing a healthy demand performance," said Tyler, while addressing the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, or Aaco, Annual General Meeting in Algiers.
The Iata chief blasted the European Union for pursuing the "unilateral and extra-territorial inclusion" of international aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme.
"It is a roadblock instead of a stepping stone. States outside of Europe see this as a challenge to their sovereignty. This is dividing the world and recklessly risking a trade war," Tyler said.
Outlining areas in which opportunities exist to further develop aviation in the Mena to benefit the region's economies, Tyler said aviation should be a catalyst for growth.
"The Gulf area has prospered from big thinking on aviation. In the UAE, for example, a study by Oxford Economics recently concluded that aviation supports some 15 per cent of the gross domestic product, or GDP, and 14 per cent of total employment. Building on world-class infrastructure and business-friendly policies, the Gulf carriers are now extending their reach through alliances, equity stakes and innovative partnerships," he said.
Tyler called for similar big thinking across North Africa to help spur economic development and GDP growth. "For example, why not move forward with developing a major North African hub?"
He observed that safety is a top priority and global standards such as the Iata Operational Safety Audit, or Iosa, are critical to achieving industry-levels of safety across Mena. "In the first ten months of 2012 there has not been a single Western-built jet hull loss in the Mena region. This is a great achievement," said Tyler.
"However, if we look at all accidents the picture is different. The accident rate for non-Iosa carriers is trending at about three-and-a-half times worse than those on the registry. This is clear evidence that Iosa improves safety," said Tyler.
He maintained that rowing traffic in the region must be matched with sufficient airspace capacity. "Mena must avoid the inefficiencies that we see in Europe. There is no room for complacency. In the Gulf, ATM delays are already nearing crisis levels," he pointed out.
Evolving East-West traffic patterns are creating new challenges across the region, including North Africa, he said. Successfully handling this will require cooperation among states, he added.
Tyler pointed out that sustainability is a key priority for the global aviation industry. Aviation contributes about two per cent to global carbon emissions. He reiterated the industry's commitments to manage and reduce its carbon emissions.
"No other industry has made tougher commitments to emissions reductions than aviation. We are making good progress toward our targets to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent annually to 2020, cap net emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth, and cut net emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005," he said.