New IATA Chief Warns Supply Chain Not To Take Advantage

IATA director general and CEO Willie Walsh
Credit: IATA / Flickr

Airport authorities, air traffic control (ATC) providers and any others in the air transport supply chain that try to exploit the current weakness of airlines will be strongly opposed, IATA’s new director general and CEO warned.

In his first full media briefing since becoming IATA’s eighth director general in April, Willie Walsh signaled that as part of his mission to help airline members lower their costs, he would stand up to those who use their monopoly positions to recover money via their airline customers.

In particular, Walsh singled out airports and privatized ATC providers. 

“We will be very strong and aggressive in opposing this and make sure these suppliers don’t take advantage,” Walsh said. “It is clearly not acceptable.”

Walsh said that some airports had been “traditional problems,” citing London Heathrow, which he publicly and frequently challenged over costs and expansion budgets when he was CEO at British Airways and then at BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group. 

“It’s the likes of airports such as Heathrow who have clearly demonstrated that they want to try to recover lost revenues,” Walsh said.

Asked if he was similarly concerned about the leasing company sector, which some believe could see more consolidation in the wake of AerCap’s takeover of GECAS, Walsh was more sanguine. 

“I think, in general, the leasing sector is competitive and has been pretty fragmented,” Walsh said. “In many cases, lessors have been part of the solution to the [airline] cash crisis, with a lot of sale and leaseback activity. I don’t have concerns about the leasing industry at this stage.”

Walsh said the top asks of the new director general by IATA member airlines were to work on their behalf to help them lower their costs; to demonstrate to governments that international flying can be resumed safely; and to facilitate the efficient operation of Travel Pass—IATA’s digital app that allows passengers to collect and share health credentials that governments require for travel. Current airport designs, Walsh said, do not have the capacity to handle the large volumes of passengers at check-in desks that will accumulate if digital apps like Travel Pass are not in place as passenger numbers recover.

Walsh noted that IATA had a “great track record” in providing efficient services to its member airlines, especially with its settlement systems that move funds between airlines and their travel partners. But he clearly believes more can be done.

“It’s all going to be around how we represent and service them in the most efficient way and how we help them reduce their costs,” Walsh said. “Airlines want to see better quality at lower prices.” 

Karen Walker

Karen Walker is Air Transport World Editor-in-Chief and Aviation Week Network Group Air Transport Editor-in-Chief. She joined ATW in 2011 and oversees the editorial content and direction of ATW, Routes and Aviation Week Group air transport content.


1 Comment
Strong words from a cartel that fixes prices.....look in the mirror Mr. Walsh.