Air Transport World

IATA focus moving from politics to management efficiency.

IATA focus moving from politics to management efficiency "Wanted: Definition of role in international airline world of 1990s."

Such an advertisement will never be placed in the classified section of any publication. But the search for such a definition is, nonetheless, the principal task at the International Air Transport Association.

For years most of the IATA members and their Secretariat in Montreal and Geneva had little doubt about their focus. The world's governments recognized the association as the intermediary between themselves and airlines. IATA provided a variety of services to members--technical, legal, governmental and commercial--but the biggest link was through the tariff-fixing functions. Governments said world airlines could set their fares and rates together within IATA, then submit the jointly agreed fares and rates for approval. Enforcement was not only acceptable but encouraged.

Now, beginning with the United States and slowly moving around the world, IATA's joint commercial functions--fares, rates, agents standards--are no longer automatically accepted. After a tumultuous period of argument with the U.S., during which IATA's political profile was raised considerably, the association's members have said, "Enough!" At a time of increasing cost pressure on members, they want more efficiency from the Secretariat, a lower political profile and concentration on the services required in a modern international airline world.

Significant strides

In order to achieve those goals IATA decided it needed different blood in the managerial ranks of the Secretariat. Neil Gleeson, a no-nonsense former Aer Lingus executive, was hired as managing director in 1983 to bring order out of what had become fiscal chaos. Both the budget and hiring were out of control.

At the time Gleeson came aboard the Secretariat's various departments reported directly to the director general. The DG at the time, Knut Hammarskjold, had little inclination to manage. …

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