Air Transport World

Accolades for AACO

Despite its achievements, the stated mission, 'to promote cooperation and serve common interests' of rival Arab air carriers, remains clouded

TUNIS -- Platitudinous pledges of solidarity flew fast and with fury at the 31st AGM of the Arab Air Carriers Orgn., in the seaside Tunis suburb of La Marsa. But recognition of in herent political obstacles and splintered commercial realities tempered the heady feel-good atmosphere.

"We are like a gazelle surrounded by wolves," asserted Eng. Mohamed Fahim Rayan, long-time chairman and president of EgyptAir and member of AACO's executive committee.

"We face the challenge of invasion of our market by megacarriers, by alliances, which are trying to squeeze us," he said. For examples, Rayan cited the Lufthansa/South African Airways partnership, KLM and Kenya Airlines, and Northwest/KLM routes to Dakar.

As the Beirut-based AACO secretariat puts it, while Arab airlines play an integral part in the development of their countries, their roles extend beyond the intrinsic air transport function to assume social, economic and strategic dimensions.

The disparate group attributed stagnant 0.1% passenger growth in 1997 to fallout from the Asian economic crisis coupled with a decline in oil prices, evaporation of the Middle East peace process, the crisis over Iraq and an attack on tourists in Luxor, Egypt, as well as fundamentalist Moslem terrorism in Algeria.

With the addition of Oman Air Services and Qatar Airways, AACO membership grew in 1997, to a total of 18 carriers. All but Oman and Iraqi Airways sent executives to the Tunis AGM in May. …

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