Air transportation leaders from across the world will gather in Seoul to discuss ways to stay profitable and tackle headwinds facing airlines at the upcoming annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) this weekend, the global airlines body said Wednesday.
More than 1,000 leaders from IATA's 290 member airlines will participate in the 75th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit from Saturday to Monday, IATA said in a statement.
"The airlines will be meeting in challenging times. 2019 is expected to be the 10th consecutive year of airline profits, but rising costs, trade wars and other uncertainties are likely to have an impact on the bottom line," IATA's Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said in a press conference held in Seoul ahead of the global event.
IATA plans to release the 2019 global airline industry profit outlook at the AGM this weekend. IATA already trimmed the outlook to US$35.5 billion in December from $38 billion.
In particular, the past six months have been tough for airlines, he said.
"We are seeing some headwinds. Global trade has weakened, trade wars are intensifying, and fuel prices have risen significantly. We have geopolitical tensions leading to airspace closures in key regions," de Juniac said.
The prolonged grounding of the B737 MAX aircraft is also taking its toll as aviation authorities in some countries have suspended flights of the B737 MAX following two accidents that killed 346 people aboard the plane.
No time frame has been set for the troubled airplane to fly again. Guaranteeing the safety of the airplane is the main priority, he said.
Aviation leaders will also discuss the impact of carbon emissions on climate change in the AGM as well, IATA said.
Since January, airlines have been tracking their carbon emissions in preparation for the 2020 introduction of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
Last but not least, he said, the participants will focus on preparing the air transport industry for the future amid the expected doubling of demand for connectivity over the next two decades.
"In the regard, airline digital transformation, infrastructure capacity, sustainability and building the workforce of the future will feature prominently in the agenda," the French native said.
This is the first time the AGM will come to South Korea, and the meeting is being hosted by Korean Air Lines Co., the country's leading airline. IATA has six member airlines in Korea.
South Korea's aviation sector employs 838,000 people and contributes to $48 billion of the country's gross domestic product, IATA said.
"Korea is expected to be among the top 10 passenger markets in 2036," de Juniac said. "With the right policy environment, the aviation sector will potentially support 1.5 million jobs and $138 billion in economic activity here in 20 years."