Doha – November 13, 2021: AACO 54th Annual General Meeting, that was held today in Doha-Qatar, decided the adoption of “net zero emissions” target as of 2050, based on the following strategy which relates to the joint responsibility of all sectors concerned with civil aviation. The AGM also called upon the European Union to respect the clause included in the annex of ICAO Assembly Resolution A39-2 and the clause included in the preamble of ICAO Assembly Resolution A39-3 on not imposing unilateral initiatives and to return to the global consensus that took place within the framework of ICAO. The resolution reaffirms the importance of respecting the Chicago convention and the Bilateral Air Services Agreements in all matters related to civil aviation and international air transport, including all affairs related to the environment.
On the other hand, the AGM adopted another resolution today reflecting what is needed for a faster recovery of the air transport sector from the implications of COVID-19. In particular, the AGM called upon governments to follow the guidelines of air travel and biosafety that were agreed upon by governments through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and their joint work which culminated in the publishing of the ICAO’s Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce’s Recovery Report and Take-off Guidance which is now available in its 4th edition.
The AGM also commended and welcomed the decision of the Arab League’s Council of Economic and Social Affairs, which adopted general principles for air travel biosafety measures and the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates based on global guidelines by ICAO and the WHO, and called upon governments to implement those principles in the national measures with regards to biosafety and air travel, and directed AACO to support the work of the Arab League jointly with the Arab Civil Aviation Organization, the Arab Tourism Organization, and the International Air Transport Association.
With regards to some countries’ initiatives to agree on Travel Health Corridors and/or Travel Bubbles, the AGM called upon those governments to follow ICAO’s guidelines while implementing those measures, particularly that they be temporary and that air services agreements, as they stand, should be the basis for any opening up for air travel under the travel health corridors and /or travel bubbles.
In addition, the AGM stressed the importance of technology to create touchless processes in all the travel activities and supported the initiatives taken by a number of entities to develop and deploy applications that would facilitate touchless air travel, particularly the IATA Travel Pass and other applications which can be used by both governments and stakeholders.
Participation: AACO 54th Annual General Meeting convened in physical format for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19
The General Assembly that was held under the patronage of H.E Mr. Jassim bin Saif bin Ahmed Al Sulaiti, Qatar’s Minister of Transport, and by kind invitation of H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, Qatar Airways and Chairman of the 54th AGM, was attended by the CEOs of AACO member airlines, AACO partner airlines and industry partners from aircraft and engine manufacturers, Global Distribution Systems (GDSs), IT providers and other specialized companies relevant to the Arab air transport industry. The AGM also welcomed the Arab Civil Aviation Organization (ACAO), the European Commission (EC), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in addition to a number of aviation experts, where the number of delegates surpassed 200.
AACO Secretary General’s Report: Mr. Abdul Wahab Teffaha’s report addressed 4 axes of high focus for the global and Arab air transport industry.
AACO Secretary General presented his report to the AGM focusing on the following:
First, the implications of COVID-19 on the economy and air transport, and how governments approached air travel following the outbreak of the virus.
Second, the principles that governments and stakeholders need to follow to support the air transport sector during the pandemic and help it re-emerge as the strongest supporter to economic growth.
Third, AACO member airlines’ commitment to contribute to fully mitigating air transport’s emissions, and the role of all aviation stakeholders in reaching that target.
Fourth, the urgency of speeding up the road to a comprehensive digital transformation for air travel processes.
The Secretary General highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in numbers as follows:
• The global economy in 2020 declined by 3.2% and will manage to recover its losses in 2021, while the Arab economy suffered a double hit from the collapse of oil prices due to the global economic recession and effect of the pandemic on the travel and tourism sector which is an essential component of the Arab economy, pushing economic recovery until 2022.
• The contribution of the travel and tourism sector in global GDP dropped from 10.4% in 2019 to 5.5% in 2020, while in the Arab world the same indicator dropped from 14.4% in 2019 to 5.4 in 2020.
• The percentage of job losses in this sector worldwide was around 32% of the total jobs lost in 2020, while the percentage of job losses in the Arab world in travel and tourism accounted for 55% of the total jobs lost in 2020.
• Total Passenger traffic measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs), was globally still 66.7% lower in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2019 and less by 80.0% for the Arab airlines.
• With such a deep and lingering impact of the crisis, it is expected that returning to 2019 passenger traffic levels will take three to five years from now, a period that depends heavily on how the world will adapt to a new normal of having an endemic Covid - 19.
The Secretary General also highlighted the evident confusion in how governments around the world dealt with trying to contain the spread of the virus while relying on arbitrary and spontaneous measures, lacking scientific evidence and transparency despite having attended International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization meetings and having agreed on a harmonious checklist and global guidelines.
AACO Secretary General explained that the unprecedented crisis is still ongoing despite the gradual and slow restoration of normal life which air transport has lost since last year. He noted that the world needs to adapt to a new normal where Covid - 19 becomes endemic. Accordingly, governments and stakeholders need to follow the guidelines which they themselves have developed through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization, and which are based on the application of a set of principles namely:
1. Governments’ adoption of standard risk-based criteria to determine the way to deal with other countries on the basis of their epidemiological situation;
2. Governments to follow the biosafety travel measures recommended jointly by the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization;
3. Governments’ recognition of health certificates issued by other countries;
4. Governments to be transparent when adopting measures;
5. To involve aviation stakeholders in the discussions leading to measures that will be implemented related to air transport;
6. Governments to embrace technological solutions that facilitate touchless travel;
7. In the cases where some governments resort to establishing public health corridors and/ or travel bubbles, those should be considered temporary measures and should be based on existing air services agreements
8. To continue supporting airlines in financial aids and other ways;
9. To learn from the experiences of countries, including many Arab countries, that dealt with air transport in a scientific and systematic manner, immunizing it from contributing to the pandemic's spread, eliciting the ideal method of containing the virus and confining its spread while easing restrictions on sectors that contribute to the economy, including air transport.
The Secretary General brought focus to joint efforts of AACO, with the Arab Civil Aviation Organization, the Arab Tourism Organization, and the International Air Transport Association that resulted in the Arab League's Economic and Social Affairs Council adopting a resolution that contains the principles mentioned above.
The Secretary General went on to address the changes in the climate that pushed the entire world to deal with this existential threat in order to achieve a world free of carbon emissions caused by human activities. On that front, the Secretary General emphasized that achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 requires the following stakeholders to do their part in achieving the 2050 goal: governments, manufacturers and technology partners, and fuel and sustainable fuel suppliers. The actions that need to be done by each of these stakeholders was stipulated by the Secretary General and can be viewed in the attached “State of the Industry” report of the Secretary General.
The Secretary General then discussed the importance of adopting technology and embracing digital transformation, highlighting the qualitative leaps taken by many airlines, airports, and even governments in adopting information technology solutions that allow travelers to conduct all of their transactions electronically, without the need for any intervention or human communication. He called for further embracing solutions, such as the IATA Travel Pass, as those significantly contribute to alleviating the burdens imposed by the viral situation on travelers first and all stakeholders in air transport.
AACO’s Annual Report and Annual Air Transport Statistics: Data on the implications of COVID-19 on the economy, and the global and regional Air travel and tourism sector was distributed to delegates of the AGM.
The Annual Report and the Annual Arab Air Transport Statistics bulletins were distributed during AACO’s AGM. This year, both publications focused on the implications of COVID-19 on the global and regional travel and tourism sector, the expected times of recovery based on different scenarios, and what is required for a faster recovery of the sector. The Annual Report focused in particular, other than reflecting the impact in numbers and data, on the aero-political aspects of COVID-19, where is the industry in terms of meeting its climate change targets and how this should be dealt with, in addition to focus on the road for digitizing air travel to support the recovery of the sector. AACO’s work and cooperation initiatives amongst its member airlines are also highlighted in the report.
Major highlights of the data included in the two bulletins are listed here below:
• Travel demand to/from and within the Arab world decreased by 72.0% in 2020 compared to 2019, reflecting border closures and low passenger demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Passengers using Arab airports in 2020 reached 122.5 million passengers, down from around 394.0 million handled in 2019.
• Cargo handled at Arab airports decreased by 24.5% in 2020 compared to 2019 reaching 6.5 million tons of cargo.
• AACO members passenger traffic measured in RPKs and seat capacity measured in ASKs declined by 72.0% and 63.5% in 2020 compared to 2019.
• Total revenues of AACO members dropped by 59.8%, and operating revenues dropped by 60.3% in 2020 compared to 2019.
To receive AACO’s Annual Arab Air Transport Statistics publication, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org , noting that requests will be processed on a case-by-case basis.
Speech by the Director General of the Arab Civil Aviation Organization: Eng. Abdennabi MANAR talked about common issues between ACAO and AACO
Historical partnership between the Arab Air Carriers’ Organization and the Arab Civil Aviation Organization exists with the common objective of both organizations to ensure a culture of Arab air transport safety, cooperation in aviation security and air traffic management, coordinated and common goals for mitigating the sector’s emissions under the umbrella of ICAO, and as well ensuring a healthy regulatory environment for the Arab airlines’ business. This cooperation has supported continuous and open dialogue between airlines and civil aviation authorities as well as airports in the region.
Eng. Manar highlighted these elements of cooperation in his speech as well as the close coordination that took place between the two organizations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to help the sector recover from the implications of the crisis as soon as possible.
IATA’s Speech to the AGM: Mr. Willie Walsh, IATA Director General and CEO, presented to the AGM the global air transport industry’s priorities for the future
Mr. Willie Walsh, IATA Director General and CEO, gave a speech at AACO 54th AGM where he highlighted the short, medium and long-term priorities of the industry and what is needed from the different aviation stakeholders of the world to support the industry.
Arab Aviation Summit/ CEOs’ Panel: A high-level strategic discussion was moderated today by Mr. Richard Quest, Anchor and Correspondent / CNN
The Secretariat General of AACO invited member airlines, regional and international organizations, industry partners, partner airlines, air transport professionals, and press to participate in the CEOs’ Panel.
The CEOs’ Panel is a discussion panel gathering Chief Executive Officers and Director Generals on strategic issues in the aviation industry, and was moderated this year by Mr. Richard Quest, Anchor and Correspondent / CNN. The panelists were:
1. H.E. Akbar Al-Baker/ Group Chief Executive/ Qatar Airways
2. Mr. Abdelhamid Addou / Chairman of the Board and CEO /Royal Air Maroc
3. Mr. Tony Douglas / Group Chief Executive Officer/ Etihad Aviation Group
4. Mr. Henrik Hololei / Director-General for Mobility and Transport / European Commission
5. Eng. Abdennebi Manar / Director General / ACAO
6. Mr. Willie Walsh/ Director General / IATA
New Members Join AACO’s Executive Committee
AACO members held a closed session today where they discussed administrative, financial, strategic and other issues related to AACO’s Secretariat General work. The two strategic resolutions referred to at the beginning of this press release were adopted by AACO member airlines. On the other hand, the AGM elected new members to AACO’s Executive Committee which now comprises of the following CEOs:
Chairman of AACO Executive Committee: Mr. Mohamad A. El-Hout, Chairman & Director General, Middle East Airlines
Members of AACO Executive Committee:
• H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, Qatar Airways
• Capt. Amr Abuelenein, Chairman & CEO, EgyptAir Holding Company (Elected earlier by AACO Executive Committee on ad-interim basis till the close of 2021 AGM and re-elected by the AGM)
• Mr. Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group
• Mr. Bander Almohanna, Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director, flynas
• Mr. Abdelhamid Addou, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Royal Air Maroc
• Eng. Samer Al-Majali, Vice Chairman and CEO, Royal Jordanian (Elected today by the AGM)
• H.E. Eng. Ibrahim Abdul Rahman Al Omar / Director General, Saudia
• Mr. Khaled Chelly / Chairman and CEO, Tunisair (Elected earlier by AACO Executive Committee on ad-interim basis till the close of 2021 AGM, and re-elected today by the AGM)
A Number of AACO Members Sign “Materials Support Agreement” in Aircraft on Ground (AOG) Situations
Chief Executive Officers of Emirates, Saudia, Qatar Airways, flynas, Middle East Airlines, Kuwait Airways, and EgyptAir signed today the 'AACO Materials Support Agreement', by which participating airlines would exchange spare parts in the cases that result in the aircraft to stay on the ground.
Closing of the AGM
As the AGM concluded, AACO members thanked the 54th AGM Chairman, H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker / Group Chief Executive / Qatar Airways, for leading this event and for the generous hospitality of Qatar Airways.
Venue of Forthcoming AGM
The forthcoming 55th AGM in 2022 will be convened in Abu Dhabi by kind invitation of Etihad Aviation Group.