The regional forum, which was held on the 16th of January in Abu Dhabi Yas Island and sponsored by Etihad Airways, gathered leading figures and decision makers from various aviation bodies within the Middle East and North Africa, and tackled the most pressing challenges that face air transport in the region.
Speakers from the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) included Captain Aysha Al Hamili, Permanent Representative of UAE on ICAO Council/ VP of the ICAO, and Mr. Juan Carlos, Air Transport Advisor to GCAA’s Director General/ Acting Director of Air Transport.
GCAA’s participating delegation, representing the UAE, was headed by HE Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director General of GCAA. Attendees included Mrs. Laila Ali Bin Hareb, Executive Director of Strategy and International Affairs, among other members from Air Transport Department.
Air Transport in Arab States has been a hot topic during recent years due to rapid growth of some major national carriers, adding the strategic position of the region which links Europe and the Americas with the emerging economic powerhouses of the East, i.e China and India.
The continuing uncertain global economic outlook represents a challenge for Arab civil aviation sector and requires concerted efforts from all actors. Unstable financial markets in the neighboring regions combined with rapid globalization and aviation technology are all new factors stoking the need for urgent coordination within the region.
Captain Al Hamili discussed in her presentation the importance of coordination among Arab States. The main topic revolved around Arab countries- EU relationship in the ICAO Council and the future of Air transport between both parties. Among the recommendations she provided: stronger coordination between Arab countries and Europe in the preparation for the Global Air Transport Conference, which will be hosted by ICAO in 2013.
This conference will be a cornerstone for reaching a solid position regarding global air transport. Al Hamili also recommended a close follow up by the IATA on the Agenda for Freedom which started in 2009 with signing the Statement of Policy Principles, where like-minded states gathered and discussed soft traffic rights.
The next step will be to discuss hard traffic rights which pave the way for open skies among like-minded states. In addition, Al Hamili shared her experience as a coordinator for Arab countries on the ICAO Council, and tackled the issue of EU-Arab States relations on ICAO council. She urged decision makers to raise the priority level of Air Transport in the same way safety, security and environment are prioritized.
Mr. Juan Carlos outlined in his presentation the UAE experience in the liberalization of air transport and how difficult it is to move towards air transport liberalization purely at the bilateral level.
“In order to allow the rapid growth of Intra Arab air transport, Arab States have to rethink the focus on bilateral agreements and implement multilateral initiatives, such as the Damascus Convention, for the liberalization of air transport between Arab states or adopt new models at the multilateral level, to survive in the rapidly changing global aviation,” he pointed out.
The Air Transport Advisor to the Director General of GCAA joined others in hailing the recent decision of Saudi Arabia to open its local market for foreign carriers. Mrs. Carlos considers this as an unprecedented opportunity to implement Pan Arab liberalization of air transport and is a good indicator of where the industry is heading in the region.
In total, 20 speakers from local and regional civil aviation organizations participated in the forum, covering a wide spectrum of aeropolitical issues and setting the tone for the future trends in regional civil aviation.
Tuesday, January 17- 2012 @ 14:17 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.