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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The most exciting story in aviation over the last decade has been written by members of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO). That was the message from James Hogan, Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, as he welcomed 300 delegates from across the region to the 44th AACO annual general meeting (AGM) in Abu Dhabi.
Referring to the last time Abu Dhabi played host to the AACO AGM in 1983, Mr Hogan said: “In 1983, no one in Europe lost any sleep over the threat of competition posed by Middle East carriers. European, American and Asian carriers were the kings of the sky.
“Where stagnation characterises so much of the industry today, Middle East carriers offer energy and ‘can do’ in abundance. If we act as one, the future is ours”.
Mr Hogan encouraged unity on a number of issues, namely: opposition to regulations that hamper the ability to compete on a level playing field with rivals, to oppose legislation that penalises AACO member airlines unfairly such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, and, to work together to foster innovation and progress at every opportunity.
The AGM was also addressed by His Excellency Sultan Al Mansouri, UAE Minister for Transport and Chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority who said, a strategic position, investment in the right technology, and employing the best mix of people from various cultures are the secrets of success for Arab carriers.
In his remarks, Secretary General of AACO, Abdul Wahab Teffaha said the world had changed tremendously since AACO last met in Abu Dhabi, and that Arab airlines have become a positive factor in this process of change and evolution.
With a message: “let the customer decide,” Mr Teffaha defended the Middle East carriers against calls for expansion restraint levelled by some non-AACO transport leaders, highlighting that Arab airlines have provided a safety net for manufacturers and created thousands of jobs – many of them in countries of airlines who want to restrain the growth of Arab airlines.
Describing aviation as the lifeblood of the global economy, supporting 33 million jobs and US $3.5 trillion in economic activity, Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said: “Robust growth will continue to be a major theme for the Middle East airline industry. In 2015, the UAE will handle 86.6 million international passengers, nearly 30 million more than in 2010. This region is a leader in adopting global best practices to prepare for the future.
Omar Bin Ghalib, deputy Director General General Civil Aviation Authority concluded: “The Arab Civil Aviation Authority today represents, a prominent entity in the international civil aviation system.”