RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aviation targets should be duplicated by other states, according to the President of the International Civil Aviation Organization council
The Kingdom wants to see the number of travelers going from and to Saudi Arabia rise from 100 million a year to 300 million — a goal described as a “challenge” but a “great opportunity” by Salvatore Sciacchitano, during an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum, held in Riyadh.
He added that he was “optimistic” about Saudi Arabia’s plans thanks to the “political commitment” and “evolution of the transport” in the Kingdom.
“This is a national objective, it is great that other states would duplicate the same approach in their states,” he said.
Speaking of aviation challenges, Sciacchitano talked about the importance of harmonization at the global level.
“This is mainly a task of ICAO, in order to create environmental regulations that we do actually, in order to facilitate these kinds of exchanges. Actually, the market is still regulated by mechanisms over profit, so that they do not facilitate very much,” he said.
The aviation sector also faces financing challenges, according to the ICAO President, saying: “We must acknowledge that airlines are the weak ring of the chain, and those that suffer more for example, in the economic value of the chain, are the less profitable. This is something that we must acknowledge and that the risk is high,” he said.
“One of the most important opportunities that must be taken is to liberalize market access,” he added
Sciacchitano spoke of the “destruction” of the aviation sector because of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying: “We've moved from 4.5 billion passengers in 2019 to 2.7 billion in 2020, with a loss of 60 percent of traffic.”
He suggested that traffic could reach 75 percent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year, with some regions in Latin America and Europe hitting 90 percent.
While the Pacific area will continue to struggle, the global rebound should be complete by the end of 2023/2024, Sciacchitano suggested.
The ICAO president also called for a more harmonized approach to border closures in future.
Sciacchitano called for an increase in demand for sustainable aviation fuel in order to bring down its sky-high cost compared to traditional forms of energy provision.
He said that with sustainable aviation fuel costing 355 times more than jet fuel, new global rules needed to be introduced to help bring down the price — as well as an increase in production.
“What needs to be done is to have a global framework, or regulatory framework, and that this is a job before ICAO in order to grant accessibility of what are called the sustainable aviation fuels or low carbon aviation fuels in order to facilitate the access to fuel that is emitting low or no carbon dioxide,” he said.
Sciacchitano defended the work the industry has already done to lower carbon emissions, saying that airplanes today emit 80 percent less carbon dioxide than in the 60s.
If the global fleet were replaced with the most environmentally-friendly planes currently available, the carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by 40 percent overnight, he explained.