IATA to kick out several members for failing safety audits

By Brendan Sobie

IATA plans to kick out several members at the end of next month for failing to pass quality control checks required under the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program.

IATA director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani says the association is now going through the audit reports of 21 members to make a final determination on whether they have in place sufficient remedies to pass IOSA. Bisignani expects several carriers, and perhaps more than 10, will have their IATA membership terminated for failing to complete this process by 31 March.

The 31 March deadline marks the last phase of IATA's implementation of IOSA as a requirement for membership. IATA members had until 31 December 2006 to hire one of seven independent firms licensed by IATA to carry out the audits. All audits were required to be completed by 31 December 2007 but members had another year, until 31 December 2008, to complete the findings and put in place all remedial actions required by the auditors.

Bisignani says several airlines waited until very late in 2008 to complete the paperwork and respond to the highlighted deficiencies. As a result 21 airlines are still now undergoing what IATA calls quality control checks. Many of these will be kicked out on 31 March for failing to put in place sufficient remedies, which essentially means they have failed the audit.

IATA already kicked out six members at the end of 2006 for electing not to do the audit at all. Bisignani reveals six or seven more members resigned in recent months because they realised they could not put in place the remedies required to address the safety deficiencies identified in their audit report.

These members would have been kicked out on 31 March if they hadn't resigned. "Some saw they couldn't make it," Bisignani explains.

IATA now has about 230 members, down from more than 250 members at the end of 2006. But Bisignani says the carriers, which have left the association due to the IOSA requirement, are all small and represent less than 1% of the traffic.

IATA also lost several members last year due to airline casualties. Bisignani says he is not concerned about the association having become smaller. "I'm interested in a quality association," he says.

Bisignani reiterated yesterday at a Wings Club speech in New York that improving safety is IATA's top priority. "Our goal is to improve safety not limit membership," he says. "We are a quality organisation and put safety as our number one priority."

Prior to his speech, IATA announced a slight increase in the global accident rate last year from 100 hull losses in 2007 to 109, including 33 involving IATA members, in 2008. IATA members averaged one accident for every 1.9 million flights last year while the industry overall averaged one accident for every 1.2 million flights.

"Safety is not a competitive issue. It is a core promise of our industry to the 2.3 billion people who fly each year," Bisignani says. "Our goal is zero accidents, zero fatalities. And the tragic events in Buffalo last week remind us that safety is a constant challenge."

Bisignani says IATA has already invested $30 million in safety programs aimed at improving the accident rate. He says a new joint programme with the Flight Safety Foundation will be launched later this year aimed at reducing runway excursions, which account for about a quarter of all accidents. This programme will include a runway safety toolkit, training courses and the gathering of data to help better understand runway excursions and come up with potential remedies.

IATA says it is also now starting to roll out the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations, which will have a similar approach to IOSA and will be aimed at mitigating the amount of ground damage.

Bisignani also took the opportunity yesterday to applaud the efforts of Chesley Sullenberger, the captain who piloted the Airbus A320 which successfully ditched in the Hudson River last month. Bisignani called the landing on the Hudson "extraordinary" and says: "The events on the Hudson River remind us that aviation has achieved an incredible record on safety".

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