Head of Arab Airlines organization says region needs $1 billion in investment to develop

RIYADH: After an 80-90% decline in business during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arab aviation industry has returned to growth but needs around $1 trillion for that to happen.

Speaking to Arab News, the Secretary General of the Arab Air Carriers Organization called on all member states to ensure adequate investments over the next decade to ensure the sustainable growth of the sector.

The aviation industry is seeing a rapid increase in passenger traffic and hopes to reach pre-pandemic levels by early to mid-2023, said AACO’s Abdulwahhad Teffaha.

The AACO is a non-profit organization with 33 member airlines from 19 countries in the MENA region.

“If we look at the strategic plans of the airlines in the region, we are talking about a trillion dollars of investment in airports, equipment, etc. – which means 100 billion dollars every year to invest in this sector, not only to support but also to bring it to the state of the art in the aviation industry.

“The biggest challenge for the aviation sector today is sustainability in terms of climate change. If the Gulf countries are to achieve their climate change goals, for aviation and for other stakeholders, they must put in place investments for better technology, which can be based on fossil fuels or on sustainable aviation fuel.

“We need to invest in infrastructure. I am not only talking about airports, I am also talking about aerospace in order to allow this industry to develop, and at the same time to be sustainable in terms of its effects on the environment.

That said, Teffaha credits the collective AACO fleet with being “the youngest in the world, with an average aircraft age of 7.4 years – compared to other regions where the average is 10-15 years. “.

“So when it comes to our fleet and our airports, we’re state of the art, but you have to maintain that level.”

We are now back to around 60%+ of pre-COVID levels.

Teffaha admits that achieving a $1 trillion investment might be too ambitious a goal.

“But even if we reach 50 to 60% of this optimal situation, we will be the best players in aviation.”

Maintaining her optimism about the AACO’s outlook, Teffaha maintains that “we are now back to around 60% and more of pre-COVID levels.”

He attributes this recovery in traffic to two specific factors: the enthusiasm for travel of the global population and the measures taken to counter COVID-19 by regional governments.

“People’s eagerness to travel is now a way of life. It’s no longer a luxury,” Teffaha said.

“Second, governments are learning from what they have done during the COVID pandemic and applying measures that are actually risk-based rather than just estimates.

“COVID is almost over. I believe we have almost reached a level of herd immunity. But it is good to adopt measures to counter the risk of future world events, not necessarily pandemics, perhaps other events that require harmony.

Teffaha also praised Saudi Arabia for coming up with a new global framework to relax and harmonize air transport requirements in the post-COVID-19 scenario.

“It’s a great initiative and kudos to Saudi Arabia for bringing it to the International Civil Aviation Organization,” he said.

Aubrey L. Morgan