For IATA and its dwindling membership, 2007 is the year of deadlines.
All carriers have until the end of December to conduct the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and transition to 100% e-ticketing.
That sounds a bit ambitious because 45% of its members have still not been audited and 27% of its members are still issuing paper tickets. But IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani was in London last week to assure reporters that both deadlines will be met even if that means kicking out members.
IATA already has ejected six members for not meeting the first of three IOSA deadlines - 31 December 2006 - for contracting one of the seven companies licensed to conduct the audit. More members will likely fail to meet the second deadline - 31 December 2007 - for having the audit conducted. Even more will potentially miss the third and final deadline - 31 December 2008 - for passing the audit, including putting in place any remedial actions required by the regulators.
Bisignani acknowledges "probably not all will pass" the audit but he says IATA is helping members improve their safety standards and pass through its $3 million "partnership for safety" programme.
So for only 133 of IATA's 244 members have had the audit done, not very impressive considering the programme was launched in 2003. Of these 133 carriers, 100 have passed and the other 33 are still waiting for the results.
Bisignani brushed aside questions that IATA is behind the curve because 45% of its remaining members still have not had the audit done although the IOSA programme is now in its fourth year. He says the seven licensed firms can realistically conduct 111 audits in a single year. He says work was deliberately slow for the first three years to allow the accredited firms to build up experience, understand the standards and make sure they apply them equally across the industry.
Bisignani also claims IATA at the end of 2006 was 3 percentage points ahead of its 70% e-ticketing target. But the last 27% is the hardest. In the Middle East, carriers are only 15% of the way there and in Russia it is 0%.
"We have some worries," Bisignani acknowledges. "A country we have many problems with is Russia."
E-tickets are still illegal in Russia. The Russian government has promised IATA it will soon legalise them, but that will only give carriers about 10 months to actually implement e-tickets. "It's not just taking away paper. It's the need to change the back office," Bisignani says. "It needs major investment."
He says members that miss the 31 December 2007 100% e-ticketing deadline not be kicked out but will have "major problems because paper tickets will not be accepted anymore".
IATA also is behind in its goal for implementing bar-coded boarding passes. Bisignani says 33 airlines now use them and IATA's 2007 target is 80 airlines. IATA also needs another 20 airports to introduce common-use kiosks to meet its 2007 target of 70 airports. IATA has made a lot of progress since launching its "Simplifying the Business" initiative in 2004, designed to cut costs by $6.5 billion, but it's not quite there yet.