While the 20th century saw the creation and rapid growth of the air transport industry, the beginning of the 21st century was marked by great challenges met with major transformations.

Over the last decade, the industry has been rocked by a series of successive crises and shocks. These include terrorism, pandemic threats, volcanic eruptions, global economic upheavals and an unprecedented rise in the cost price of fuel. Between 2000 and 2010, airlines posted a net loss of $30 billion.

All this has made IATA’s leadership more crucial than ever. In 2002, Giovanni Bisignani took over leadership of IATA as its Director General and CEO from Pierre Jean Jeanniot. Bisignani initiated a complete restructuring of the association to increase IATA’s relevance and speed in driving major industry changes.

Initiatives spearheaded by IATA include:

  • The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA): IOSA is the global standard for airline safety management and by 2009 airlines were required to achieve IOSA registration as a condition of IATA membership. This is the flagship component of a comprehensive strategy that includes audits, cargo, flight operations, infrastructure, training and data collection
  • Environment: IATA led the alignment of the whole aviation industry—airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers—in a long term strategy to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020 and to cut aviation’s carbon emissions by half by 2050
  • Simplifying the Business (StB): In 2004 IATA launched this initiative to use technology to improve customer convenience and reduce costs. In 2008, 100% e-ticketing was achieved, marking a major milestone for the industry. Other industry savings initiatives range from bar-coded boarding passes (BCBP) to Fast Travel, Baggage Improvement Program (BIP) and e-freight, e-services
  • Savings: IATA embarked on a major initiative to reduce costs across the air transport value chain, particularly with monopoly suppliers. By 2010 this ongoing campaign has claimed industry savings exceeding $17 billion
  • Financial: IATA operates industry financial systems which now settle in excess of $300 billion a year with a success rate of over 99.99%. Unit costs for this system have been decreased by over 80% since 2000

IATA also strengthened its position as the voice of the industry, with firm advocacy and lobbying to focus governments on the long term issues for viability of aviation, such as liberalization, environment and taxation.

Next: A Force for Good

Portraits of IATA leaders since 1945