Asian airlines to boom, Europe stagnate: IATA

Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region will grow strongly in the next few years but air transport in Europe is likely to stagnate, the outgoing head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Friday.

IATA president Giovanni Bisignani told the La Tribune newspaper that "Europe is by far the biggest problem for the sector."

Bisignani blamed European governments for being more interested in raising taxes from the industry than in supporting growth and providing infrastructure, and also warned that the rising cost of fuel was a "disaster."

"The centre of gravity of air transportation is shifting towards Asia because of the growth of its economy but also because governments there are careful to take measures to develop the sector," he said.

"When I see the situation in Europe, I am pessimistic."

But "I am very optimistic when I look at the trend in the Asia-Pacific region, and the involvement of states in creating favourable conditions to help the growth of traffic."

Bisignani said that air transport in Europe was undermined by weak economic growth in the European area and also by the fact that air transportation was not "unfortunately a priority for European governments."

He said that during a crisis for the sector arising from volcanic ash spread from Iceland last year there had been "no consensus between governments."

He observed: "Only taxes on companies and their passengers seem to interest them... And while there is a wave of taxes, there is no action on structural measures which, in terms of infrastructure, would enable companies to be competitive in a market environment."

He gave the example of a single European air space which had been promised since the 1990s but was "still a dream."

By contrast, he forecast that the Asia-Pacific region would account for 30.0 percent of global traffic in three years' time from 26.0 percent now and that North America would account for 23.0 percent.

He also held that a system for the exchange of carbon emissions quotas for the sector in 2012 would be difficult to set up because of opposition from the United States, Russia, Japan, China and Australia.

"We are ready to accept such a system on condition that it apply across the world under the aegis of the International Civil Aviation Organization," he said.

Bisignani also expressed concern about the rise of the price of fuel, declaring it to be "a disaster."

In June, Bisignani hands over the IATA presidency to Tony Tyler, the former head of Cathay Pacific airline.

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