The 78th International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit (WATS) took place in Doha this week, hosted by Qatar Airways. 

In March 2021, IATA announced moving the 78th AGM and summit from Shanghai, China, where it would have been hosted by China Eastern Airlines, to Doha. This is the second time the global meeting has been held here, with Qatar quickly and easily stepping up to host following the COVID-19 travel-related restrictions to China.

Representatives from IATA and executives from the world’s aviation industry convened for IATA’s annual meeting to discuss the current state of air transport. In total, there were approximately 750 attendees, including senior leaders from the 290 IATA member airlines, government officials, strategic partners, suppliers, and members of more than 150 media outlets.

Keynote speakers at the three-day event included Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA, and HE Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive. Topics that were discussed covered emerging issues and global trends being faced by the airline industry, such as the war in Ukraine, sustainability, and regulatory and financial challenges.

This 78th meeting is a symbolic one, according to Willie Walsh:

In a few days, Doha will become the aviation capital of the world. The last time we met in Doha, in 2014, we were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first airline flight. This year’s AGM is another momentous occasion: Airlines are simultaneously recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, setting the path to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, working to improve gender diversity, and adapting to a geopolitical environment that is undergoing its greatest shock in over three decades.’

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, HE Akbar Al Baker said:

It is an absolute privilege to be hosting our industry partners in Qatar Airways’ home city, particularly during our milestone 25th year of operations. Coming together face-to-face provides us with the opportunity to discuss lessons learnt from our recent years during the pandemic, global issues affecting us all in the here and now, and to plan the best way forward for the industry.’

Qatar Airways is one of the most prominent supporters of IATA. This year’s meeting was a valuable opportunity for attendees to see first-hand the improvements and developments in Qatar’s infrastructure as the country prepares to host fans for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM.

Highlights of the event

The event began with a report on the air transport industry given by Willie Walsh, who stated that ‘Aviation is resilient. And we are rebounding’. This is thanks to traffic increasing as people have started travelling again following the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic situation is looking better as well, with IATA announcing an upgrade to its outlook for the airline industry’s 2022 financial performance.

A key topic at the summit was sustainability, with discussions on the steps the aviation industry will take to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Talks also covered what the industry can do to support global efforts to reduce ‘single use plastics’, the challenges of carbon offsets, and the production of sustainable and lower carbon aviation fuels, to deliver long-term environmentally viable solutions.

Other highlights of the event included the third edition of the Diversity and Inclusion Awards, sponsored by Qatar Airways, which celebrate the work being done to ensure ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ is at the heart of the industry. Read more about the winners here.

Meanwhile, the CEO Insights Panel, moderated by CNN’s Richard Quest, brought together a group of leading airline CEOs who provided their insights on the key challenges and opportunities in the industry, and how they plan to meet and take advantage of them.​

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