Air Transport Industry Chiefs to Confer on Crisis

August 21, 2002 - 0:0
GENEVA -- World airport and airline executives will meet later this year to plot ways out of the security and financial crises in the global industry, officials said on Monday.

A series of conferences -- in Japan, Italy, the United States and Cuba -- will come against a background of faltering recovery from the September 11 attacks by hijacked airliners in the United States and continuing global economic uncertainties.

One will focus on how carriers, airports and governments can work together to boost security against terrorism.

Organized by the airlines' global body IATA, it will take place in Rome from October 29-31 under the banner "pre-empting the threat".

"We are facing the most serious threat in aviation history.

The stakes have never been higher," say conference documents from IATA, the International Air Transport Association.

Current industry problems will also be to the fore when the Geneva-based Airports Council International (ACI) holds its annual general meeting in Tokyo from October 7-11, Reuters reported.

ACI, which groups most airports and airport authorities around the globe, is playing a major role in IATA's security meeting in Rome, and also hosts a conference in Miami from October 28-30 on "managing the recovery" in airport business.

That gathering, it says, will focus on what it calls "this fragile situation" of how to underpin revenue for airports -- almost as badly hit in the United States as national airlines by a huge fall in air travel since last September.

"Most U.S. airports are funded by bond issues and that means when their income drops it is difficult for them to service their debt," said ACI's Mike Brown.

The decline in U.S. tourism since the September 11 attacks, in which some 3,000 people died, has also hurt Latin America and the Caribbean which are favored holiday destinations for tens of thousands of Americans.

That region has also been badly hit by its own economic crisis -- heightened by the global slowdown of the past 18 months -- that has pushed several national airlines close to collapse and left the travel industry reeling.

ACI's meeting in Tokyo will hear reports from top aviation officials in charge of airports in New York, Zurich and Sydney on how they have tried to manage the crisis sparked by September 11 and the bankruptcy of national carriers.