Alexandre de Juniac succeeded Tony Tyler in September 2016 as IATA’s Director General and CEO.
De Juniac had a long background in aviation, including many years at French aerospace manufacturer Thales. His experience of IATA, through his board membership stemming from his leadership of Air France and Air France-KLM, gave him a strong insight into the organization.
He set the tone for his leadership at IATA’s 72nd AGM, in a speech following his confirmation by the IATA membership. He coined the phrase “aviation is the business of freedom.” It became his rallying motif throughout his time in post. His tenure at IATA focused on sustainability, digital transformation, and building strong partnerships with governments.
De Juniac’s first major role as IATA’s Director General was to observe the Triennial Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) formally adopt the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). The agreement culminated years of sustained advocacy from IATA and other stakeholders that called on governments to establish a global market-based measure to manage aviation’s climate change impact.
This was an important part of the industry’s strategy on climate change. The years that followed focused on ensuring the effective implementation of CORSIA and the commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels—increasing production and reducing costs. Airlines also began exploring pathways to a long-term goal of net-zero emissions as the global response to climate change took on greater urgency. Other environmental programs focused n wildlife trafficking and the establishment of the IATA Environmental Audit were also pursued.
During de Juniac’s tenure, programs such as ONE Order and One ID were advanced to improve digital processes throughout the passenger journey and bring a seamless experience closer to reality. The expansion of the New Distribution Capability gathered pace with its adoption by major airlines around the world.
De Juniac also oversaw the launch of the 25by2025 campaign, which seeks to address gender imbalance in civil aviation.
De Juniac’s first years in office were marked by improvements in industry financial performance to historic levels. Airline profitability grew strongly in the mid-2010s and hit a high of $37.6 billion in 2017. The industry was well-placed to continue to grow sustainably when the Coronavirus pandemic dealt a devastating blow in 2020.
In response, de Juniac ran IATA in crisis mode for his last year as Director General—attempting to steer the industry through a catastrophic fall in traffic as governments closed borders and imposed severe travel restrictions.
IATA focused on three key issues.
- The first priority was to call for immediate assistance for the industry in the form of government financial and regulatory support. Many governments stepped up, providing for a lifeline of critical financial aid for many airlines.
- The second priority was to establish operational standards to protect public health and assure travelers that flying was safe. Studies revealed that transmission rates on board aircraft were very low, helped by cabin airflow and seating position, but also through the mandatory wearing of masks and strict sanitary procedures.
- The third priority was working with governments to provide a roadmap for restart. This included development of the IATA Travel Pass digital app to manage travel health credentials, advocating for common digital certification standards, and urging the replacement of quarantine with rapid testing.
Over the course of de Juniac’s leadership, the IATA membership grew to nearly 300 airlines. To better serve its members, IATA consolidated the operations of its financial systems in four hubs—Beijing, Singapore, Madrid and Montreal. This laid the foundation for the establishment of a broader customer service function to support the association’s various commercial offerings. The COVID-19 crisis took its toll on IATA and a major restructuring was carried out in 2020. This aligned IATA with the size of the smaller industry expected to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and kept the organization on a solid financial footing.
In April 2021 de Juniac handed over the leadership of IATA to Willie Walsh, bequeathing him a leaner, focused organization dedicated to enabling a strong restart of the global aviation system to once again be “the business of freedom”.