IATA may now be changing all that in a subtle way.
Good old IATA. It’s always been there, and its member airlines knew what it was for, but the travelling public, by and large, did not – and still do not.
In fact until the gradual process of market liberalisation began in the 1980s, IATA was vilified by the Western press and many politicians as nothing more than a cartel.
But in recent years it has become more than a lobbyist on behalf of the industry. It has taken upon itself the task of policing standards among its member airlines, and throwing them out if they don’t – or can’t – perform to specification.
Safety has been the starting point, with the introduction of the compulsory biennial IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Airlines which failed it – not a high percentage of the total membership – were ejected.
IATA member airlines always had a lower accident rate than the world average, but this year, as the IOSA programme’s benefits start to kick in, that difference is getting dramatic. In 2010 to 30 November, the world jet accident rate was 0.66 hull losses per million departures, but for IATA carriers it was 0.28 – more than twice as good.
Incidentally, 0.66 hull losses per million departures is very safe in historical terms, so the IATA standard is high indeed.
Some airlines used to put the IATA logo on their aircraft near the boarding door, but many have stopped because passengers don’t know what it signifies.
But if it comes to be seen as the stamp of quality, conferring passenger confidence that safety is as good as it can realistically be, maybe members will start painting it onto their aeroplanes again.