Outgoing IATA DG Laments Covid-induced ‘Fragmentation’

 - March 17, 2021, 11:06 AM
Outgoing IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by World Trade Organization)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Governments need to learn to coordinate better on Covid-19 recovery efforts or risk exposing the world’s airlines to further financial hardship, outgoing International Air Transport Association director general Alexandre de Juniac asserted during his last appearance on the organization’s series of briefings on the pandemic’s effect on the industry Wednesday. De Juniac, who yields his post at IATA at the end of the month to IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, lamented the “fragmentation” among states the virus has caused following decades of progress toward globalization.

“We cannot restart this industry with the flip of a switch,” said de Juniac in his opening remarks. "It will take careful planning to take aircraft out of long-term storage, to ensure crew qualification, to recall laid-off employees, to reopen terminals, and so on. We can only be ready to energize the recovery from day one if governments have a plan and share it with us.”

Still, de Juniac expressed optimism that widespread air travel could resume by the summer season and cited the European Commission’s recently proposed digital Green Pass as a “good initiative” to help accomplish that goal. He also stressed that Green Pass should integrate with IATA’s own Travel Pass, which passengers on a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to London used for the first time on Wednesday to verify their health status. However, de Juniac also advocated for a “reduced number of [health passport] systems” for the sake of simplicity and security.

Separately, IATA does not support any moves by governments to make vaccination mandatory as a condition of entry into those countries and calls for a comprehensive approach to opening borders based on coordinated testing regimes as well. “It’s an area of concern,” stressed de Juniac. “And it’s an area of concern for people who don’t want to be vaccinated.”

Returning to the subject of government coordination, de Juniac advocated for more collaboration within global institutions such as the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization. “It can also be the EU or whatever organization, but frankly one of the outcomes of this crisis is that fragmentation has significantly replaced the previous world that was based on globalization and that is not good news, not only for our industry but the world in general,” he concluded.