Airline Industry Chief Says Terrorists Won’t Halt Travel Boom

Airline Executives Attend The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Symposium

Tony Tyler, chief executive officer of the International Air Transport Association.

Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
  • People still view flying as safe form of transport, Tyler says
  • IATA open to new technologies to help find crashed planes

The global airline industry association’s head said terrorist attacks on aircraft, airports and tourist destinations of the kind that have ripped through Europe and parts of northern Africa in the past year won’t stem surging travel demand.

While such outrages have an impact on the industry and people’s perceptions, the effect is generally localized and temporary, International Air Transport Association Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler said Wednesday in an interview.

“The business impact of these events tends to be quite isolated and it’s often not as long-term as some people may think,” Tyler told Bloomberg Television. “People don’t get frightened off by these thugs. Most people, I think, if they want to travel will travel.”

Tyler spoke as investigators probing the loss of an EgyptAir jet in the eastern Mediterranean on May 19 picked up pings likely to coming from black-box flight recorders that should reveal whether the plane was the latest target in an 18-month spate of terrorist attacks focused on Europe and North Africa. The spree has already seen the main terminal at Brussels airport blown up, Paris devastated by blasts and shootings, a Russian jet downed by a suspected Islamic State bomb and dozens of tourists killed in Tunisia and Turkey.

Brussels Factor

Tyler said most people nevertheless view flying as a very safe way to travel. “These outrages must be stopped, but I think that in business terms it’s not something that has a big impact, certainly not at recent levels,” he said.

IATA, which represents 260 airlines accounting for 83 percent of air traffic, said Monday the March 22 attacks on Brussels had been a factor in passenger-traffic growth slowing to 4.6 percent in April, the slowest pace since January 2015.

Data released to Bloomberg by flight-scheduling firm OAG shows that while locations targeted by terrorists will see steep reductions in capacity this summer, carriers are transferring thousands of seats to unaffected markets. This means that while Egypt and Paris are experiencing tougher times, destinations such as Spanish resorts and Italian cities are set to enjoy a boom in visitors.

Tyler said the airline industry is continuing to explore options for ending the reliance of crash investigations on the physical retrieval of flight recorders, something the United Nations-backed International Civil Aviation Organization has made mandatory for all new aircraft from 2021.

Bandwidth Issue

“We all feel strongly that it would be a very good thing if we weren’t in the situation we are now, yet again,” he said of the EgyptAir search. “But if it was easy we would be doing it already.”

While saying the live streaming of data is an attractive idea, Tyler cautioned that with 100,000 flights a day worldwide there are significant issues concerning the provision of the required spectrum and bandwidth, and how information would be stored or processed.

The use of black boxes that automatically eject in the event of a crash in water is the other main option, Tyler said, while adding that the technology “is not necessarily a simple issue nor an enhancement of safety.”

The IATA chief spoke the day before the group’s annual meeting, where he’ll provide an update on its latest earnings projection for carriers worldwide. A December forecast said that global earnings would reach a record $36.3 billion this year, spurred by the lower cost of jet fuel. Tyler’s term at the helm of the organization ends this week, and members are set to appoint Air France-KLM Group CEO Alexandre de Juniac as his successor.

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