By Jose Ricardo Botelho
Thank you very much Colombia for welcoming us with open arms and doors on the occasion of ALTA’s Annual General Meeting and the Leaders Forum.
ALTA was born in Bogota 41 years ago and it is an honor to return to this land with such a rich culture and great tourism potential.
Leaders of the public and private world saw an industry that grew steadily in the last 16 years and that doubled in size every decade, in a region that by 2019 had managed to connect with all the continents of the planet by air. Leaders who tackled V-shaped recovery data first, then W, then randomly; leaders who saw a future that advanced steadily became a mathematical formula that changed every second. Leaders who faced the anxiety of seeing entire fleets grounded, even after having worked hard with ICAO’s CART group, to set biosafety standards in a way that no other industry has yet done, working in tandem with the authorities. Leaders who worked to make Latin America and the Caribbean one of the safest regions to fly and to also be one of the most biosecure and, even so, many times they were prevented from doing what they loved the most: BEING FREE TO FLY. Quarantine and closures resulted in the loss of millions of jobs, when studies carried out by both sectors, public and private, showed that aviation is not a vector for the spread of any illness, thanks to the biosecurity protocols adopted and the technologies on board. Both in public and in private, you, the leaders of the aviation industry, had to make decisions that have never been made before, in a completely new and different context. Only a leader has the ability to cope with uncertainty, remain resilient and inspire to move forward, when everything seems endless. Only a leader has the ability to be hit the hardest and still get up after every fall, stay and keep going. My genuine appreciation and thanks to all the leaders of ou industry who accompany us. Each of you saw that this crisis was not a point of arrival, but a starting point for a better world, more logical, focused on the well-being of all.
At ALTA we are honored to hold the seventeenth LEADERS FORUM and AGM with the participation of each of the people we have convened. Our deep admiration and gratitude for the fundamental role that they have been playing in a vital sector for the functioning of our region and the well-being of our populations.
In ALTA (which represents around 76% of aviation in Latin America and the Caribbean and, in some countries, exceeds 98%, in addition to having the entire value chain of the industry with its regular members, associates, affiliates, partners and consultants) we always remained confident in the protocols and in the possibility of traveling safely. For this reason, we have persisted in holding face-to-face events with the necessary protocols. Thus, in 2020 we held in Mexico the first and largest face-to-face conference in the post-pandemic Americas with more than 200 participants, the ALTA CCMA & MRO Conference that we repeated this year in the Dominican Republic, with more than 500 participants, breaking all records of its story. In both cases, we followed up with the participants and found that COVID-19 contamination was zero.
This gives us even more confidence in what we do and what we stand for. We meet once again to bring the public and private sectors closer together, with technical information, data that can help envision a clearer path and a safe, efficient and positive roadmap for the region.
ALTA maintains its mission of working collaboratively with all organizations and entities in the sector. With the International Civil Aviation Organization headquartered in Montreal, Canada and also with its important regional offices ICAO SAM and ICAO NACC in some important projects for comparative analysis and harmonization. Also, pursuing joint initiatives with CLAC and deepening our alliance with CANSO and the Flight Safety Foundation, in order to continue raising safety standards. We seek to participate in events, as well as hold them in alliance with important associations such as IATA, ACI-LAC, HERMES, ALA, IAWA, IAMA, ICF and WTTC, among many others.
In addition, aware of the importance of constant training, especially in these times of rapid and constant change, ALTA sought to sign and execute agreements with important study centers such as Embry Riddle, Universidad Tecnologica de Panama, IDAC/ASCA in the Dominican Republic, while in Colombia seeking to expand the scope of the agreement with Aerocivil, to work with the Center for Aeronautical Studies, also qualified as a university institution.
Thank you to all of you and especially to the nearly 20 new members who believe in the value we deliver and who joined ALTA during the pandemic. Of course, we knew that there was and is a crisis, but we also knew that we could not stop, that we must represent our members and, as one of the most brilliant aviators, Antoine de Saint Exupéry taught us, when the issue is aviation “we are all responsible of all”. And at ALTA we feel responsible for each of our members because we are a unique sector that gives life, brings hope and generates development.
I already mentioned it once and I repeat it again: for the first time in the history of all humanity, due to the development we have achieved, all generations are living together. So, whether you are a boomer, X, MILLENIUM or Z, it is time to work together for a greater purpose. And this industry knows it. Therefore, ALTA and its members have demonstrated their commitment, creativity and dedication to protect the environment. We have developed and supported campaigns to respect and promote diversity, as we did by joining IAWA and developing joint activities. Even ALTA is now supporting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s campaign for Pink October.
This industry has advanced goals for the protection of the environment and that is why we welcome and support IATA’s resolution to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by the year 2050. Our AGM ALTA, in a unanimous decision just yesterday, considered that the development and production of sustainable aviation fuels on a large scale and at a competitive price, is essential to achieve the goal of Net Zero Emissions by 2050. That is why we have called on the governments of the region to implement effective and efficient public policies to achieve that goal. We support CORSIA and the development of technologies and efficiency strategies. Although as an industry we are responsible for only 2% of global carbon emissions, we are committed to future generations. We are not and we do not want to be part of the problem, but, yes, we are and we want to be part of the solution.
ALTA kept all of its committees fully operational during this pandemic. Be it the environment, fuel, legal, safety, procurement, maintenance or the fraud prevention committee. Each of them were and are open to dialogue and for the search for solutions for the most diverse agendas, including issues related to CORSIA; use of JET A, SAF, fees, taxation, competitiveness, technical and economic regulation, airport concessions and infrastructure, among many other topics. We want to congratulate the Brazilian authorities present here for the epic decision to allow the use of JET A in line with international standards. We are available to demonstrate that this industry works in a technical way, seeking efficiency and competence, in the most diverse market issues. That economic studies like Leotieff’s can bring more fiscal equity, freeing up the industry to develop and, at the same time, keeping tax collection rates at adequate levels.
We also know that we cannot do anything alone and that is why we want to thank the open dialogue with associations such as A4A, A4E, AFRAA, AACO, APAA, IATA, and many others. Our thanks to all. We want to work together with government representatives to help solve infrastructure problems. We can help with data and studies, contributing to the development of a country and connecting people and families. We know that it is not always easy, but we need to believe that together, with a vote of confidence and a lot of effort, we can contribute to a world with more efficient regulations, to the improvement of infrastructure, to the use of more technologies and even to the removal of taxes that serve only like an anchor for ships in terms of furthering development of our sector. Also and more importantly, as an obstacle that stops more people to make use of a safer and more efficient means of transport. With rationality and technique we can help with initiatives in other countries that have improved the business environment, providing more legal certainty, avoiding unnecessary fines and providing development, more competition and more connectivity for all.
Latin America and the Caribbean cannot wait any longer. After so long, the world needs to go back to Carpe Diem for the well-being of everybody. To be back in contact with nature and for that, we have, without a doubt and in this region, the most beautiful landscapes that the people the planet over would like to see. For this reason, we must urgently work together in actions that allow us to recover the connectivity of our countries and our continent. It is time to be brave and make those decisions that do not allow delay, face problems, especially those that are more difficult because that is what leaders are for, to show the way. Only a leader knows the difference between wanting and wanting and I’m sure everyone wants to make a difference. The airlines had to make very tough decisions, but necessary and we know that this is also possible in the public sector and we are here to support. We are seeking harmonization in the procedures to provide security for travelers. It is time to retake, to advance as a single sector and to seek development with competitiveness or as Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize in Economics said, “giving people the right to free choice, within a world of healthy industries.”
I would not like to miss this opportunity to thank the ALTA executive committee, in particular Pedro Heilbron, President of Copa Airlines, for having been our leader and guide for the last 2 years. And I thank Roberto Alvo, CEO of LATAM, Andrés Conesa CEO of Aeroméxico, Tracy Cooper CEO of Bahamasair and Adrian Neuhauser CEO of AVIANCA, for all their support during this period. I thank Roberto for assuming the presidency of our Executive Committee and I hope that the work that we carry out together in the coming months will have a crucial impact on the generation of opportunities for the people in our region.
In conclusion, I would like with everyone’s permission to say that being a leader is being there for others no matter what. It is not wanting for oneself, but for others, even when this means giving up much, even the most precious.
(*) Jose Ricardo Botelho is the Executive Director and CEO of the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA). Graduated in Law from the Catholic University of Salvador and with postgraduate studies at the Jorge Amado University and the National Police Academy of Brazil, he previously held other important positions as Head of Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) and as the Brazilian Alternate Chief Diplomatic Delegate at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).