September 28, 2022
Future Aviation Forum 2022 – Day One Key Takeaways 
Events Industry

Future Aviation Forum 2022 – Day One Key Takeaways 

RIYADH – The opening of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to tourism, the proposal of harmonized air travel health policies, and the signing of bilateral air service agreements have been the leading topics during the first day of the 2022 Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Opening the Kingdom to the World

At the opening of the 2022 Future Aviation Forum, HE Eng. Saleh bin Nasser bin Alali Aljasser, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of transport and logistics and Chairman of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) welcomed guests and speakers to the event, highlighting that the country is “at the start of the most significant aviation industry reform in the 21st century.”

Saudi Arabia is currently planning to reduce its dependency on oil by establishing a strategic framework named Saudi Vision 2030, intended to stimulate the diversification of its economy and develop service sectors, including civil aviation. 

“In line with our Vision 2030 goals, we are opening the Kingdom and welcoming the world. We are unlocking the aviation potential to ensure sustainable practices and create world-class employment for our people,” Aljasser said.

2022 Future Aviation Forum. Photo: Roberto Leiro/Airways

Over the next ten years, Saudi Arabia plans to invest US$100bn sourced from public and private investors. The funding will fuel the upgrade of existing airports, namely Riyadh (RUH) and Jeddah (JED), and the launch of a new national carrier. 

Aljasser stressed that the country “will emerge as the Middle East aviation hub,” flying more than 330 million passengers and five million tonnes of freight to 250 destinations by 2030. 

Al-Jasser’s ambitions were echoed by Raid Ismael, co-head of the Middle East and North Africa direct investment at Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). Ismael said aviation was a key sector that the PIF is focused on as part of its strategy to become an enabler to executing the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Reflecting on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, Al-Jasser described the aviation industry as being at a ‘crossroads,’ with short-term challenges including energy prices, sustainably, growth, and competitiveness. 

2022 Future Aviation Forum. Photo: Roberto Leiro/Airways

Unifying Responses, Enhancing Resilience

HE Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Duailej, President, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), announced its initiative to unify procedures and policies related to health requirements to support the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, to enable the civil aviation sector in the world to face future health crises.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented crisis for the aviation industry, with travel restrictions, suspension of operations, grounding, and liquidity pressures. In an informal talk to Jean-Marc Bourreau of Consulum Aviation, and technical advisor to GACA, claims that if a harmonized system had been in place before the pandemic, the losses of over US$1.1tr could have been avoided.

Bourreau is bullish on the proposal and expects that it will become a standard under Annex 9 of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which establishes the formalities for passengers and requirements of border control authorities, including public health.

2022 Future Aviation Forum. Photo: Roberto Leiro/Airways

Bracing for Chinese Impact

The aviation sector has slowed due to China’s zero-COVID-19 policy, which according to Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA, is a policy impossible to achieve. Walsh noted that soaring energy prices are among the most difficult challenges the aviation industry is currently facing, as it is still struggling to emerge from the economic slump caused by the pandemic.

Sounding a cautionary note, Walsh stressed that while the industry is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, these initiatives represent a high cost for the parties involved and need more significant commitment from the financial community to allocate resources towards achieving this target.

Featured image: 2022 Future Aviation Forum. Photo: Roberto Leiro/Airways

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