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The Business of Freedom


IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac reflects on the nature of air travel over the holiday season

​Air travel takes on a special character at this time of year.

There are noticeably fewer business travelers. And airports and planes are filled with people traveling for leisure. Some are reuniting with families to spend the holidays together after working abroad. Others are returning from studies. Still others are taking the opportunity of the holidays to re-charge their batteries at leisure destinations or to satisfy their curiosity by exploring the planet.

We often speak about the business benefits that aviation makes possible - generating jobs and economic growth. But the massive movement of people for the year-end holiday period is no less a critical contribution of aviation.

Aviation is the business of freedom. Helping families to take advantage of far flung work opportunities while making it possible to reunite for important occasions enriches all of us. I see it at IATA. We have employees from over 100 countries. That diversity helps the work that we do. It brings us closer to our members and customers. It gives us unique and multi-faceted insights that are critical for business success.

For holiday-makers the impact of aviation is no less profound. Their options are broader than ever. In the last year alone we saw nearly 1,500 new direct routes established—so there are more options to efficiently use precious vacation days. And the money they will spend on holiday is part of the $750 billion economic boost that is created by international travel.

As the Director General of IATA, I probably think more about aviation’s global impact than do most people. A large part of my job is making sure that governments grasp the importance of aviation. The hope is that they will build a policy framework that benefits their local economy by maximizing the power of aviation.

But I could not resist the opportunity of the year-end travel season to cast a broader message. Most of us take global mobility for granted. But if you are traveling this holiday season, I would ask you to take a moment to reflect on the wonder of the age in which we live. It’s been just over 100 years since the first commercial flight. On 1 January 1914, exactly one person flew as a commercial passenger. If you are traveling today, you are in the company of eleven million fellow travelers.

Happy travels. And happy holidays to all.

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