Realizing the forecast growth of aviation will be challenging, so it is important that governments play a key role in helping to promote the business of freedom

Aviation is full of potential. We were reminded of that with the publication of IATA’s latest 20-year passenger forecast which predicts that 8.2 billion passengers will board aircraft in 2037. It’s an amazing number—more than the number of people that inhabit our planet today. It is also exactly double the number of passengers that we expect this year.

That growth will bring tremendous benefits. Employment supported by aviation will grow to 100 million jobs as the economic contribution reaches $5.5 trillion. Behind those big numbers will be a world prospering from greater connectivity and accessibility, enabling all of us to lead better lives. Realizing that growth will be challenging.

The infrastructure that supports aviation is already bursting at the seams. Every traveler sees this in crowded airports and when experiencing late arrivals owing to air traffic delays. For the most part, government plans to expand infrastructure are not ambitious enough. The time it takes to pour concrete is also ever lengthening. 

In key hubs as far apart as London, Mumbai and Sydney, a planning horizon of two decades or more is the reality. And even when projects are decided, political developments can still throw obstacles in the way of completion as we have seen in Mexico City. 

It’s not much different when modernizing air traffic management. We have been talking about the Single European Sky for decades, but not much has really been achieved. 

Aviation is the business of freedom. Facilitating aviation’s ability to meet growing demand with efficient infrastructure will drive prosperity. That’s something we must hold our governments accountable for

If we don’t have the plans on the books today it is difficult to see how the infrastructure that we will need in 2037 can materialize. Politicians and governments do have a responsibility to build the foundations on which their constituents can prosper. 

The challenge is getting politicians to commit their support for developments that take more time to achieve than the political lifespan of most elected leaders. 

Along with promoting the economic and social benefits of aviation we must get across two other key messages.

The first message is that there is no other alternative to making investments to lay foundations, construct terminals and build runways.  

The second message is that we need borders that are open to people and to trade. That may be a difficult message in these politically-charged times. But there is no denying that globalization has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty. And falling into a reverse globalization scenario would see a 2037 world with 1.3 billion unrealized passengers, ten million fewer jobs and an economy that is $900 billion poorer.

Aviation is the business of freedom. Facilitating aviation’s ability to meet growing demand with efficient infrastructure will drive prosperity. That’s something we must hold our governments accountable for.

Alexandre de Juniac: Director General and CEO, IATA.

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