Lack of infrastructure and regulatory cohesion challenge the growth of the Asia-Pacific region’s airlines, said Andrew Herdman, president and director general of the 15-airline Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA). Herdman and other industry officials warned of rising air traffic congestion at AAPA’s 57th Assembly of Presidents, held November 14 and 15 in Hong Kong.
The Association of South East Asian countries (Asean) will begin implementing an Open Skies liberalization policy in 2015. Already, with seven of the world’s top 10 busiest routes located in Asia, the region sorely misses a single regulatory body like the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to control its congested airspace. Every nation has its own set of regulations related to airspace management and pilot training and maintenance.
“The problem in China, where traffic has exploded, is that the airspace is controlled by the military. The issue is complex, as it involves multi-party discussions,” Herdman said. “Execution will be a challenge,” added John Byerly, a former U.S. Department of Transportation negotiator.
In a resolution following the two-day meeting, the AAPA called upon governments to expedite the implementation of air traffic management projects to enable operational efficiencies to avoid congestion and delays. Hong Kong International Airport, for example, is expected to reach saturation between 2019 and 2022.
Tommy Leung, the airport’s general manager for projects, said air traffic last year exceeded the forecast for 2015, leading the government to start discussions with aviation authorities of neighboring Macau and China to coordinate airspace management. AAPA recently extended its membership base to include South Asian countries and China.