Regional Vice President for the Americas, IATA
The aviation industry is looking toward the future to achieve net-zero goals and recover post-pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental effect on aviation, mainly due to the prolonged border restrictions imposed by the Canadian government. This resulted in bare-minimum operations being in place for longer than in other markets, such as the U.S., Brazil, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
On a global scale, domestic travel is set to recover in 2023, with international traffic projected to regain pre-pandemic levels during 2024. Domestic passenger figures for Canada are still 10 per cent below pre-pandemic levels and well under 20 per cent for international travel. Last summer, the number of routes operated by airlines to, from, and within Canada was still close to 30 per cent below 2019, with the gap on the domestic network higher than on international routes. And while recovery remains the top priority, we cannot lose sight of sustainability.
During the pandemic, aviation demonstrated how it ensures vital transport links — both for people and for goods. Even in Canada, with its road and rail infrastructure, the negative effects of lack of good air connectivity became obvious from coast to coast.
Advancements in sustainability
Nevertheless, as an industry we’re very conscious of the fact that we need to play our role in reducing our environmental impact. At the IATA AGM in 2021, the member airlines agreed to the ambitious goal of achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and this was adopted as a Long-Term Aspirational Goal by the 41st International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly held in Montreal in 2022.
The biggest contribution to decarbonizing aviation will come through sustainable aviation fuels. We need governments to set the framework and the incentives for this energy transformation, in a similar way to what’s being done with electric vehicles. Moreover, other forms of alternative propulsion need to be considered, such as electric aircraft, especially for short distances and hydrogen as a fuel source.
Aviation beyond the pandemic
We’re finally coming out of the COVID-19 crisis and we need collaboration across all stakeholders in the value chain to maintain the momentum. Prior to the pandemic, aviation contributed some $51.4 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported around 633,000 jobs. The spending by foreign tourists added a further $16.7 billion to the country’s GDP, bringing the entire sector’s contribution to 3.2 per cent of the GDP total. However, the major airports in Canada along with NAV CANADA are all raising their fees and charges to fill the financial holes left by COVID. Pushing up costs at a time when inflation is already eating away at disposable incomes won’t support the recovery efforts. We need to work jointly, and that includes the government, so we can unlock efficiencies and cost savings in order to provide air travel at reasonable market costs.
To learn more, visit iata.org.