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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air targets should be duplicated by other states, says Chairman of Council of International Civil Aviation Organization
The Kingdom wants to see the number of travelers to and from 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 a 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 “political commitment” and “transport developments” in the Kingdom.
“It’s a national goal, it’s great that other states are replicating the same approach in their states,” he said.
Speaking of challenges in aviation, Sciacchitano spoke of the importance of harmonization globally.
“It’s mainly a task of ICAO, to create environmental regulations that we are doing now, to facilitate this type of trade. In fact, the market is still regulated by mechanisms on profit, so that ‘they don’t make it easy,’ he said.
The aviation sector also faces funding challenges, according to the ICAO President, saying: “We must recognize that airlines are the weakest link in the chain, and those who suffer the most for example, in the economic value of the chain, are the least profitable. . This is something we need to recognize and the risk is high,” he said.
“One of the most important opportunities to seize is to liberalize market access,” he added.
Sciacchitano spoke of the “destruction” of the aviation sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying: “We have gone from 4.5 billion passengers in 2019 to 2.7 billion in 2020, with a loss 60% of traffic”.
He suggested that traffic could reach 75% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year, with parts of Latin America and Europe hitting 90%.
While the Pacific zone 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 the future.
Carbon Dioxide Emission
Sciacchitano called for an increase in demand for sustainable aviation fuel to reduce its exorbitant cost compared to traditional forms of energy supply.
He said with sustainable aviation fuel costing 355 times more than jet fuel, new global rules needed to be introduced to help bring the price down – along with increased production.
“What needs to be done is to have a global framework, or a regulatory framework, and that is a job before ICAO in order to grant the accessibility of what are called aviation fuels sustainable or low-carbon aviation fuels to facilitate access to fuel that emits little or no carbon dioxide,” he said.
Sciacchitano defended the work the industry has already done to reduce carbon emissions, saying planes now emit 80% less carbon dioxide than they did in the 1960s.
If the global fleet were replaced with the most environmentally friendly aircraft currently available, carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 40% overnight, he explained.