Freedom of the skies

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By  Barbara Cockburn Published  September 26, 2006

|~||~||~|Dubai is proving to be the aviation hub its ruler has planned for. It became the centre of the world for aviation forums, symposiums and conferences, bringing the global industry together to network, discuss its issues and celebrate its “resilience” in its ability to bounce back following difficult times. Air liberalisation was the hot topic, with three important figureheads urging the Middle East to open its skies to help boost the regional economy and develop the aviation industry. His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Department of Civil Aviation and chairman of Emirates Group, told delegates at the World Routes Development Forum that pursuing an open sky policy should be a natural choice for sustainable growth in the Middle East. Giovanni Bisignani, CEO of the International Air Travel Association, was a keynote speaker at the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s global symposium on air transport. During the event, he said the industry needed to recuperate after losing US$40 billion since 2001, but the failure to liberalise has delayed the recovery process. Finally, talking at the 4th Annual MENA Air Finance conference, Abdul Wahab Teffaha, secretary general of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, said change is happening, slowly but steadily, pointing to the experience of the Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti governments. With three prominent members of the industry highlighting this important issue, surely change is around the corner? However, the challenge is persuading the various governments in the region to implement change sooner rather than later. For this to happen, we need the industry to stand behind Sheikh Ahmed, Giovanni Bisignani and Abdul Wahab Teffaha, and voice their opinions. If you have any comments to make on this month’s issue, we’d love to hear from you. Send your views to barbara.cockburn@itp.com ||**||

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