IATA calls for new thinking in the air transport value chain
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for new thinking on the relationships between partners in the air transport value chain in order to attract the $4-5 trillion that will be needed over the next 20 years to meet the growing demand for aviation-enabled connectivity.
The call came in an IATA study supported by analysis from McKinsey & Company, called Profitability and the Air Transport Value Chain, which shows that returns on capital invested in airlines have improved in recent years, but are still far below what investors would normally expect to earn.
“The airline industry has created tremendous value for its customers and the wider economies we serve. Aviation supports some 57 million jobs globally and we make possible $2.2 trillion worth of economic activity. By value, over 35% of the goods traded internationally are transported by air,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO. “But in the 2004-2011 period, investors would have earned $17 billion more annually by taking their capital and investing it in bonds and equities of similar risk. Unless we find ways to improve returns for our investors it may prove difficult to attract the $4-5 trillion of capital we need to serve the expansion in connectivity over the next two decades, the vast majority of which will support the growth of developing economies,” he said
During the 2004-2011 period, returns on capital invested in the airline industry worldwide are said to have averaged 4.1%. This is an improvement on the average of 3.8% generated in the previous business cycle over 1996-2004. The study showed that over the past 40 years virtually all industries have generated higher returns on invested capital (ROIC) than the airline industry. Moreover, airlines are the least profitable segment of the air transport value chain while other segments consistently generate good returns for their investors. The biggest cost for airlines today is fuel and companies in this sector benefited from an estimated $16-48 billion of their annual net profits generated by air transport. The most profitable part of the rest of the value chain is in distribution, with the computer reservation systems businesses of the three global distribution system companies generating an average ROIC of 20%, followed by freight forwarders with an ROIC of 15%.
“More effective partnerships are required among stakeholders in the air transport industry. Efficiency gains are a win-win for all concerned. We have seen that with the adoption of 100% e-ticketing and the introduction of global self-service standards. Not only did partners in the industry benefit, but consumers gained great value through more efficient and convenient processes. This study points to the active collaboration needed to find even more such solutions,” said Tyler.
“On top of the cost issues, airlines also face a hyper fragmented industry structure owing to government policies that discourage cross-border consolidation. There is plenty of room for some fresh thinking on all accounts,” said Tyler.