In a keynote presentation at the AERIA+ General Assembly on Thursday, May 25, 2023, Marie Owens Thomsen, Chief Economist of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the air transport sector. As the pandemic continues to take its toll on the industry, the resilience of the airline sector and the upturn in business that is giving carriers hope of a return to profit were hailed.
The vigorous recovery in air traffic, particularly with the gradual reopening of China, has been hailed as a positive sign for airlines. After months of restrictions and disruption caused by the health crisis, the industry is striving to return to pre-pandemic levels. However, with fierce competition and slim margins, airlines are often seen as the industry’s “weakest link”, facing low profitability.
In the wake of this crisis, sustainability is emerging as the sector’s main concern. In particular, the economist stressed the importance of public investment policies in meeting this global challenge. The transition to more environmentally-friendly air transport requires substantial funding.
In this respect, the considerable gap between investments currently dedicated to the oil sector and those required for this transition was particularly pointed out. While the oil sector benefits from annual global investments of the order of 570 billion dollars, around 180 billion dollars a year would be required to finance the transition to more sustainable aviation. This comparison underlines the importance of public policy in creating the right incentives and regulations for the development and adoption of environmentally-friendly technologies in the aviation sector.
Marie Owens Thomsen’s address to the AERIA+ General Assembly highlighted the crucial issues facing the air transport sector, while also highlighting the opportunities that lie ahead for sustainable aviation. To meet these challenges and create a sustainable and accessible energy future, close cooperation between industry players, governments and international institutions will be essential. AERIA+ warmly thanks IATA and in particular Marie Owens Thomsen for her much appreciated contribution.