Flagging infrastructure challenges in the aviation sector, IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac today said governments should be cautious about privatising airports as “airport privatisation has not lived up to expectations”. Against the backdrop of many airports worldwide, including in India, grappling with slot issues, he emphasised that airports should be protected with “iron-clad regulation that prioritises the national interest”. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) represents around 275 airlines that account for 83 per cent of global air traffic. Speaking at the IATA Global Media Day here, Juniac said airport infrastructure is not being built fast enough to cope with growth as a result of which slots at aerodromes are “so important”. “The scarce supply means that coordination is critical.
“About two-thirds of airports needing slot coordination are in Europe. And there are bottlenecks around the world — Sydney, Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta, Mumbai, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo — to name just a few. That demonstrates the size of the infrastructure challenge,” he said. The Director General and CEO of IATA also urged governments to ensure scarce capacity is allocated efficiently using global standards. In India, there are slot issues at two of the busiest airports — Delhi and Mumbai — amid rising passenger numbers and capacity constraints. Touching on the issue of privatisation of airports, Juniac struck a note of caution, saying “learn from past mistakes”.
“To be blunt, we have not seen an airport privatisation that has fully lived up to expectations. And our members are very frustrated. Airport privatisation is an issue that needs careful attention and urgent thinking,” he noted. In 2017, airlines are projected to fly more than 4 billion people and 60 million tonnes of cargo over 20,000 city pairs. “In principle, our demands are rather simple. We need capacity to meet demand. Airports must be aligned with user needs for quality and technical specifications. And affordability is key,” Juniac said.