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Asia-Pacific needs to do more to cope with rising demand for travel: Iata

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"The challenge for governments is to ensure sufficient capacity that is affordable and in line with airlines' operational requirements," said Mr de Juniac.

THE 34 million jobs and US$700 billion of economic activity supported by Asia-Pacific's aviation industry are expected to more than double over the next 20 years. But these economic benefits are at risk if the region does not address the long-term challenges of sustainability, infrastructure and regulatory harmonisation, said the International Air Transport Association's (Iata) director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.

In particular, the Asia-Pacific region faces the challenge of coping with a burgeoning demand for travel.

Iata's latest forecast expects 7.8 billion passengers to travel in 2036. This is almost double that of the four billion passengers expected in 2017. More than half of this growth will be in Asia-Pacific, with the region accounting for some 2.1 billion new travellers in 2036, Iata said.

"The challenge for governments is to ensure sufficient capacity that is affordable and in line with airlines' operational requirements," said Mr de Juniac.

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He suggested that the region is headed for an infrastructure crisis with Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta among the airports that need major upgrades. Improvement in Chinese air traffic management is also required, while the high costs at India's privatised airports are burdening the industry, he added.

On this note, Mr de Juniac cautioned against privatisation as a solution to fund infrastructure investments.

"Our conclusion from three decades of largely disappointing experiences with airport privatisation tells us airports perform better in public hands," he said.

Mr de Juniac also noted that the primary focus of airports should be to support a nation's prosperity as an economic catalyst. However once privatised, shareholder returns take priority, which may lead to costs increases.

In addition, the director-general emphasised the importance of establishing global standards to maximise efficiency.

"This region would benefit from greater regulatory convergence in how global standards are implemented. But there are still too many examples of states in Asia-Pacific not complying with global standards and re-inventing the wheel on issues," said Mr de Juniac.

He cited the example of China which recently introduced new requirements without consultation with the industry for handling portable electronic devices (PEDs), and is considering major deviations from the Worldwide Slot Guidelines.

Lastly, he also called on Asia-Pacific governments to do more to support the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).

"Today, 140 flights operate daily using SAF from sources that will not in any way deplete natural resources or negatively impact the ecological balance. There would be more flights if SAF were available in greater quantities and at cheaper prices," he said.

"Governments must take a more proactive role in providing the right incentives to unlock SAF's potential, similar to the support for solar power, electrical vehicles and automotive biofuels," he added.

It has been a year since the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreement on Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia), and in just over 14 months airlines will need to start reporting their emissions.

Singapore joined the list of countries keen to participate in the pilot phase of Corsia in 2016.

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