Asia faces air travel infrastructure crisis: IATA

Air China planes on the tarmac at Beijing Capital International Airport. Air travel in the Asia-Pacific region is headed toward a crisis, said the head of the IATA on Oct 25, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - The Asia-Pacific region must urgently step up investment in infrastructure to meet rapidly increasing demand for air travel, the global airline industry's trade body said Wednesday (Oct 25).

"We are headed for a major infrastructure crisis," said Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association.

He said the 34 million jobs and US$700 billion (S$952 billion) of economic activity supported by aviation across the Asia-Pacific region are expected to more than double in the next 20 years.

"But the realisation of these economic benefits is at risk if the region does not address the big long-term challenges of sustainability, infrastructure and regulatory harmonisation," said de Juniac, speaking at an industry conference held in Taiwan, according to an IATA statement.

The number of passengers is expected to nearly double in the next two decades according to IATA's latest forecasts, with half of that growth expected to be in the Asia-Pacific region, meaning it faces a "difficult challenge" in ensuring the development of adequate infrastructure.

While a number of airports have plans in place, de Juniac said others such as Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta are among those that need major upgrades.

He also said Chinese air traffic management is struggling to cope with growth, while high costs at India's privatised airports are burdening the industry.

De Juniac also warned against seeing privatisation as the solution to fund infrastructure investments.

"We have no issue with injecting private sector mentality into the operation of any airport," he said.

"But our conclusion from three decades of largely disappointing experiences with airport privatisation tells us airports perform better in public hands," said de Juniac.

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