IATA annual general meeting postponed as focus stays on face-to-face interaction

This would be the sixth time that the showpiece IATA event would be organised in the US

IATA annual general meeting postponed as focus stays on face-to-face interaction
IATA logo. Representative image

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has postponed its 77th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit. The premier global aviation event, which was earlier scheduled to be held from 27 to 29 June this year, would now be held from October 3 to 5.

The venue and host of the event remain unchanged, which means that the event would be held in Boston in the US and hosted by JetBlue Airways. This would be the sixth time that the showpiece event would be organised in the US and the first time in Boston. It would bring together aviation leaders from across the world.

The 76th IATA AGM was held virtually with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as the host airline. At this meeting, Boston was chosen as the venue of the IATA AGM in 2021. This time around, the focus of the IATA, however, is on organising a face-to-face meeting at any cost.    

"We believe that it is vital to do all we can to meet as an industry face-to-face. Doing so will affirm that airlines can safely connect the world, demonstrate our industry’s resilience, and confirm the inestimable value of in-person meetings, facilitated by aviation," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

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The elite aviation body, which represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic, informed about the postponement of the showpiece event in a press release on March 17.

According to IATA's outlook for the Covid-stressed aviation industry published in November last year, the industry would witness a net loss of $38.7 billion in 2021. The first half of the year would be difficult for the aviation industry, but things would turn for the better in the second half. The airline industry is expected to remain cash negative throughout 2021, with new estimates of cash burn being in the $75–$95 billion range.

"With governments having tightened border restrictions, 2021 is shaping up to be a much tougher year than previously expected," said de Juniac. “More emergency relief from governments will be needed. A functioning airline industry can eventually energise the economic recovery from Covid-19. But that won’t happen if there are massive failures before the crisis ends. If governments are unable to open their borders, we will need them to open their wallets with financial relief to keep airlines viable."  

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Lifting of travel restrictions and effective vaccinations would facilitate air travel demand during the peak summer season in the northern hemisphere, but the demand would still be tepid, IATA said. It expects demand in 2021 to be 33-38% of 2019 levels.  

By the start of next year, 4.8 million direct aviation jobs may be lost, according to research by the Air Transport Action Group. This would represent a 43% drop from the pre-Covid levels. Aviation-supported jobs could potentially fall by 46 million. The tourism industry would be severely hit too, especially considering that 58% of the tourists arrive by air. There is expected to be $630 billion reduced GDP benefits from air travel-related tourism, and this would be matched by a loss of 26.4 million jobs.  

According to IATA's latest poll, flyers are getting frustrated by the loss of freedom to travel and are showing greater confidence in a return of air travel. People are also feeling more comfortable with managing the risks of Covid-19. In this regard, the IATA Travel Pass is envisaged as a "key instrument" to get the aviation industry back on track.