Air Transport World

The once and future IATA

Adapting to preserve its value to the rapidly changing industry, the organization is changing its character as it changes its roles

If the transition of the International Air Transport Assn. from the regulated to the deregulated world was a 3-act drama, we would be at the start of the third act with few questions remaining unanswered.

The nature of the dramatic tension would have been clear in the first act and the outcome would have been obvious midway through the second. In the next decade, the third act will play out the inevitable transition, with only the degree of success remaining in doubt. From its former position in the center of strategic planning and policy issues, IATA is moving to a position that while essential to the smooth running of the international industry, is more an airline-service company than the cartel of yore. The other key role and the role with a link to the past is that of a trade association, an advocate for its members' interests to other parties, mostly governments.

"We are a knowledge center." Some 20 years ago, an IATA official trying to sell that description of the organization would have been greeted with immense skepticism: facades aside, a cartel is a carte Today, however, that statement seems to ring true.

For one thing, the cartel issues of the past are either in the past or rapidly headed in that direction.

Traffic conferences remain, some at the bidding of the governments in the concerned markets, some to work out the details of business in a market. The tariff-setting functions are diminishing rapidly, essentially gone on the North Atlantic and fading elsewhere.

"IATA is sort of like Philip Morris. They've figured out the future is not in cigarettes," said Jeffrey Shane, former official at the U. …

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