IATA (the International Air Transport Association) is a trade association that represents around 275 airlines, and about 83% of global air traffic. The purpose of IATA is to address critical aviation issues and formulate aviation policies that are in the best interest of the industry on the whole.
In addition to IATA having a CEO, they also have a chairman (typically the CEO of an airline), who serves a one year rotating term. Currently Goh Choon Phong, Singapore Airlines’ CEO, is serving a term, which is set to expire next summer. Well, the next IATA chairman has just been announced, and this is certainly a controversial choice.
Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has been named the next chairman of IATA. His one year term will start in June 2018. Per the Qatar Airways press release:
“I am honoured to have been chosen by my fellow board members to head this important body, at a time when the industry faces numerous challenges on a multitude of levels. To represent and lead the IATA Board of Governors is a tremendous privilege, and I am grateful for the opportunity to represent an industry that plays such a vital role in the global economy.”
“For more than two decades I have lived and breathed aviation, and I look forward to working alongside the Board of Governors to champion passenger rights and improve security standards across the industry, as well as continuing to promote the rights of freedom of flight for all.”
This is sure to be interesting for a couple of reasons.
First of all, Al Baker has been highly critical of IATA over the years. In 2011 he criticized IATA for being elitist, claiming it was “run for the few, by the few.” During last year’s IATA AGM Al Baker criticized IATA’s CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, who he’s going to have to work with during his term.
Perhaps even more interesting is that Al Baker is taking over at a time when Qatar faces a blockade in the region, and when the battle over Open Skies is being debated as heavily as ever. With Al Baker’s stated goal of “promoting the rights of freedom of flight for all,” it sure will be interesting to see how Emirates, Etihad, American, Delta, United, etc., feel about this appointment.
If nothing else, I sure look forward to Al Baker’s colorful commentary when he’s the chairman of IATA. Let’s see if he can drain the elitist IATA swamp. 😉