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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on African governments to build stronger partnerships with industry to prioritise and promote aviation policies that will improve safety and develop a more competitive industry cost structure.
Aviation is a key driver of Africa’s economy, the organisation stated, with some 6.7-million African jobs and nearly USD 68 billion in African gross domestic product supported by air transport.
IATA director-general and CEO Tony Tyler believed, however, that the benefits of aviation connectivity exceeded the scope of these figures.
“With a few kilometers of runway, the most remote region can be connected to the global community. This could mean access to vital sources of healthcare and emergency assistance, access to global markets, and opportunities for education or business creation,” he said at the opening of IATA’s Aviation Day Africa in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday April 16.
Cooperation between African airlines
CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam talking about growth prospects for the airline industry in Africa, reckoned that it is time for African countries to stop seeking to have flag carrier as it doesn’t make sense in business terms. “Many flag carriers in Africa are ending being subsidized by their governments as they fail to make profits. This is happening because they are established just to hold their national flag on their tails.”
He encourages African countries to consider the economic sense of the industry and to seek to work in cooperation like Ethiopian Airlines and ASKY to meet the much needed connectivity and commodity demands of the traffic.
African Strategic Improvement Action Plan
To advance continental aviation policies, IATA, the African Airlines Association, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and others, have developed the African Strategic Improvement Action Plan.
The plan outlines critical objectives, including the establishment of independent and sufficiently funded civil aviation authorities, an effective and transparent safety oversight system by all African States, the completion of an IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and accident prevention measures by all African carriers, as well as the implementation of flight data analysis.
These objectives garnered political support following their incorporation in the Abuja declaration adopted by African Ministers of transport, which committed African aviation stakeholders to achieving a safety performance on par with the global average by the end of 2015.
“Earlier this year, the plan was endorsed by the African Union Summit, which demonstrates that the importance of aviation safety has been recognised by those in high levels of government on the continent,” said Tyler.
IATA was focusing its efforts on including more airlines in the IOSA registry.
Tyler further reiterated IATA’s longstanding criticism of the European Union Air Safety List of banned airlines. “The European Union’s approach is wrong. It lacks transparency, does not improve safety and there are no transparent criteria for removing airlines from the banned list.
“However, the overall safety improvements that we can expect from the commitment to mandate IOSA registration for all carriers will be a very strong argument for Europe to re-think its position”.
Safety remained the most significant challenge for African aviation. In 2012, airlines averaged one hull loss for every five-million flights on Western-built jet aircraft, while the African average was one for every 270 000 flights.
However, there were no Western-built jet hull-losses among the over 380 airlines on the registry of the IOSA, including 25 airlines in sub-Saharan Africa.
“World-class safety is possible in Africa. The safety record of African carriers on the IOSA registry tells us that the key to this is integrating the best safety practices of the industry as captured in the IOSA standards.
“IATA is committed and actively engaged in helping to enhance African aviation’s safety performance to reach worldwide levels based on the African Strategic Improvement Action Plan,” said Tyler.
Tewolde said despite the growth opportunities for Air travel in the continent, African Aviation is suffering from high fuel costs. “The price of fuel in Europe on average is around USD 3-3.5 per liter, but here in Africa air fuel is costing as USD 6 per liter on average. The causes may range from huge tax on air fuel to additional transport costs on fuel in landlocked countries” Tewolde added.
Tyler further cautioned that the African aviation industry would not be able to fulfill its potential if it continued to be burdened with prohibitively high costs.
Aviation fuel purchased in Africa was about 21% more expensive than the global average as a result of heavy taxes, many of which were in contravention of ICAO principles.
IATA was working with airlines in Africa for compliance with global standards and improvements had already been realised in Angola, Uganda and Ghana.
In addition, the continent suffered the impact of onerous direct taxes on tickets.
“We see a combination of ‘solidarity’ taxes, tourism taxes, value-added tax and infrastructure development fees, each of which reduces the ability of aviation to drive economic benefits and generate jobs. Governments must carefully weigh the income generated against lost economic opportunities,” said Tyler.
He encouraged a joined-up policy framework that focused on the benefits of connectivity, which would grow in a more favourable tax environment.
(Compiled from agencies)