North Africa, Middle East cautioned on airport privatisation

Director General/CEO of IATA Alexandre de Juniac

Governments in North Africa and the Middle East have been cautioned on airport privatization plans
as the Middle East has shown foresight in developing world-leading airport infrastructure.

The Director General of International Air Transport Association (IATA) Alexandre de Juniac sounded the note of caution at the annual general meeting of the Arab Air Carriers’ Organization (AACO) in Cairo, Egypt.

De Juniac disclosed that aviation in North Africa and the Middle East currently supports 2.4 million jobs and $130 billion in economic activity and urged governments in the region to maximize the economic and social benefits of the industry.

He highlighted improving aviation infrastructure and enhanced competitiveness while working toward regulatory harmonization across the region as essential.

According to him, “Aviation currently supports 2.4 million jobs and $130 billion in economic activity across the MENA region. That represents 3.3% of all employment and 4.4% of all GDP in the region. Over the next 20 years we expect passenger numbers to grow by 4.3% annually. As aviation’s leaders we must work together and with governments to realize this potential and the economic and social development that it will catalyze.”

“As Saudi Arabia and others across the region consider airport privatization our message is clear and simple: talk to all stakeholders—especially the airlines—to ensure that you gain the best long-term economic and social benefits. There is no need for governments in the region to repeat the mistakes that have been made in other parts of the world. Consultation is not just key, it is a must,” said de Juniac.

IATA also expressed concern for air traffic delays in the Gulf. The average delay per flight attributed to ATC issues in the region is 29 minutes. Without urgent progress, that could double by 2025 costing over $7 billion in lost productivity and adding over $9 billion to airline operating costs.

“There is an enormous amount of traffic in a limited geographic area. And the only solution is to manage the area as a whole. Governments must replace political fragmentation with collaborative cross-border decision-making. This has to happen fast or the effectiveness of the region’s hubs will be severely compromised,” said de Juniac.

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