Interview: Abdul Wahab Teffaha, AACO secretary general
Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) secretary general Abdul Wahab Teffaha explains how the association has developed its presence over the years and what can be expected at next month’s annual general meeting in Abu Dhabi.
When was the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) first established?
The organisation was officially launched in 1965, although the seeds were actually planted a year earlier by various transport ministers in the region, who wanted to develop an independent, world-class identity for Arab airlines, away from their traditional affiliation to western airlines at the time. As a result, the heads of Arab airlines were invited to attend a meeting in August 1965, where an agreement was signed to establish the Arab Air Carriers Organisation.
How has the organisation developed over the past four-and-a-half decades?
While our initial objectives were humble, there has been a significant evolution over the past four or five decades. Today, as a non-profit organisation based in Lebanon, we cooperate with regional and international companies, government and non-government bodies, foreign airlines, manufacturers and service providers, offering a broad framework of cooperation for AACO members that protects their interests and supports a better economic environment for their operations.
Which airlines are members of AACO?
We have a total of 25 member airlines at the moment, which includes Air Arabia, Afriqiyah Airways, Air Algerie, EgyptAir, Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, Iraqi Airways, Kuwait Airways, Libyan Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Sudan Airways, Syrian Arab Airlines, Tunisair and Yemen Airways.
What is the membership criteria?
Membership is available to Arab airlines that operate both scheduled and non-scheduled services, whether that’s internationally or domestically, mixed or cargo. To become an active member, the airline must operate scheduled international services, while associate membership is also available to airlines that operate charter or non-scheduled operations, in addition to those operating pure domestic flights.
Do you encourage other types of companies to get involved with AACO?
Yes, we launched an ‘industry partnership programme’ in 1996, which currently brings together 52 companies related to the airline industry, such as aircraft and engine manufacturers, consultancy firms, ground-handling service providers, leasing companies and technology specialists, amongst others. The programme allows partners to strengthen their relationships with member airlines, while AACO receives their support with something like training programmes, for example. In addition, a ‘partner airlines programme’ was established in 2010, which enables non-Arab airlines to join AACO as partners and benefit from the platform of cooperation between its members.
What can be expected from AACO’s AGM in Abu Dhabi this month?
This is our 44th annual general meeting and will bring together the heads of our 25 member airlines, in addition to AACO partners, media representatives and other industry stakeholders. We will offer two days of networking, brainstorming and discussions on various industry issues. James Hogan, Etihad Airways CEO, will chair the event, while Tony Tyler, IATA director general, and Mohammed El Alj, Arab Civil Aviation Commission (ACAC) director general, will make keynote addresses.
What industry topics will be covered?
In addition to looking back at our work over the past year and discussing our future ambitions, we will cover various topical issues, starting with the environment and more specifically the forthcoming EU emissions trading scheme and its impact on Arab airlines. Serious questions have been raised about the legality of this scheme and its application to the international aviation industry. Another topic that will be covered is Euro-Arab aviation relations, which has gained importance in recent years. We are two neighbouring regions and the growing prominence of Arab airlines has raised certain challenges for our European colleagues. And finally, a third issue is intra-Arab issues in terms of regulations, market access and freedom of movements for both people and cargo.