Dublin: Airline executives will likely be paying close attention to comments from incoming International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alexandre de Juniac at the group’s 72nd annual meet in Dublin this week,
It is the first time de Juniac, the current chief of Europe’s largest carrier Air France KLM, will attend a major IATA event since he was announced in April as outgoing director general Tony Tyler’s replacement.
De Juniac’s appointment will need to be formalised at the annual general meeting, however, it is understood there will be no objections from IATA’s 260 airline members. He will formally take on the role on September 1.
During his three years at Air France-KLM, de Juniac accused the Gulf carriers of not playing by the rules, suggesting that they receive billions of dollars in state subsidies.
“What we want is that these carriers follow the same rules that we do, full stop. And we want the [EU authorities] to control a little of this,” he told UK newspaper the Evening Standard in June 2014.
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and group and Qatar Airways group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, each said in April de Juniac won’t be able to play favourites once he heads IATA.
“Many will be watching comments from the incoming [director general] about subsidies and “fair competition,” Will Horton, senior analyst at CAPA — Centre for Aviation, told Gulf News by email. “This was a huge matter for him at [Air France-KLM] but IATA is supposed to be neutral … This is relevant not just in a Gulf context … Chinese airlines have subsidies accounted for in their public annual reports.”
The subsidy row, led by the United States’ three largest carriers American, United and Delta, overshadowed last year’s annual meet held in Miami. A repeat this year seems unlikely. The spat is losing momentum and Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have always denied the allegations.
“Behind the scenes there could still be murmurings in the ongoing US/Gulf carrier dispute,” John Strickland, aviation expert and director of UK-based JLS Consulting, told Gulf News by email.
Many see leading IATA, the world’s largest aviation lobby group, as a tough job, responsible for finding middle ground among its members, many of whom compete directly with each other.
James Hogan, the president and chief executive Etihad Aviation Group (EAG), the umbrella company for Etihad Airways, on Tuesday said de Juniac was an “outstanding choice” and that he believed he would do a “good job.”
Safety, security and terrorism are also expected to be a focus this week following a number of major incidents in past 12 months including the Brussels airport bombing, the bombing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt, and the flydubai crash in Russia in March, followed by the EgyptAir crash last month over the Mediterranean.
“The industry faces many challenges right now. Security is sure to feature as a big discussion point given,” Strickland said.
The IATA’s two-day annual general meeting starts on June 2.