The Arab Air Carriers Organisation recently closed the doors to its annual general meeting in Abu Dhabi on a positive but cautious note. BTN caught up with AACO Secretary General, Mr. Abdul Wahab Teffaha, to discuss the impact that Government taxation and restrictive regulations have had on global and Arab airlines, the importance of IT and telecommunications for airline passengers and his future predictions for Arab aviation.
BTN: You spoke specifically during your speech about financial and regulation pressures on the airline industry. How do you propose Arab airlines deal with these key issues?
AWT: The issue of the pressures are global and most of the pressure is coming from Europe and the USA. It is not only about the Arab airlines but its a cause for all the airlines of the world to fight the distorted visions of some governments in the world that it the airline industry is a tax cow and that no matter how much tax they put on its shoulders that it will be able to sustain itself and that no matter how many regulations that will cripple the industry and affect travel and tourism - that it is okay
IATA is doing a great job in promoting and trying to advocate the importance of the air transport industry globally to the sustainable economic development of all countries of the world and in particular the countries of the developed world. And we support IATA in that regard all the way.
BTN: You mentioned the need for Governments to abandon unsupportive policies. Does AACO have a strong enough and unified voice to achieve this?
AWT: Again on a global level – all we want for Government to do is simply to treat us as a normal business. We don’t want to have the subsidies that they are pouring into the rail or maritime or road transport industries, we are not asking for subsidies.
What we are just asking for is simply for the Government to give us the chance to work as a business without being taxed.
We have the strength of the position of not only the Arab airlines – again it’s a global issue – and also with the other airlines of the world in order to drive that message to the Government. Hopefully so that the Governments will see reason, that targeting the airline industry with additional tax and regulations is backfiring on all sectors of the economy that depend on the aviation as a backbone.
BTN: You raise the point that IT and telecommunications puts the passenger in the driving seat. How important is it for airlines to work closely with technology partners? Are the Arab airlines leaders in this arena?
AWT: I should not claim that we are leaders but we are at the forefront of the development. This is something which was employed beautifully originally by the low cost airlines. It is something that the legacy airlines and network carriers have learned very well from the low cost and invested in it and are they are expanding in it.
I can say the Arab airlines understand very well that the customer now is truly global and is interested in the quality of service and value for money the ability to have services which are without hassle and products that are transparent enough for customers to make an informed choice.
The Arab airlines focus on that and on delivering to the customer his or her options for choices and therefore I think the Arab airlines do understand this and are addressing it. They are not the only ones of course but I do think they are at the forefront of that.
BTN: What are your predictions for the Arab aviation industry for 2012 and beyond?
AWT: I’m sure that 2012 is going to be a difficult year in terms of the general economic outlook for the world and also because in the Arab world which presents one third of our market base, the transition to different political regime will affect the degree of demand on travel.
In the long term, we have attributes which will not change. We have geography working in our favour as we are in the middle of huge mountains. We have attributes in the quality of service, of being able to manage costs effectively and we have a young population which is going to travel more and more.
Because of these attributes – I am sure that even in 2012 we are going to grow, but prospects for 2013 and beyond are great.