Tyler takes IATA reins after highly charged AGM

Singapore
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Tony Tyler takes the reins at IATA from outgoing director general Giovanni Bisignani at a time of unprecedented discord among its members, following high drama at June's 67th annual general meeting in Singapore.

In a highly unusual session early in the AGM, IATA came under fire from a group led by the Gulf carriers over a lack of transparency, and was accused of appearing to be "run for the few, by the few". This led to an unprecedented secret ballot, which was only narrowly defeated.

Sources indicate that agitation was brewing among some of the members ahead of the Singapore gathering, but they had intended to keep their frustrations under wraps so as to project a united front at Bisignani's farewell AGM.

However on the eve of the event, the mood took a dramatic turn when decisions taken by the IATA committee that nominates who sits on the 30-strong IATA board of governors infuriated some Middle East carrier leaders.

Both challenges during the AGM were initiated by Qatar Airways' outspoken boss Akbar al Baker. First involved his misgivings about IATA's financial statements and its auditors.

Second concerned the way that James Hogan, chief executive at rival Gulf carrier Etihad Airways, had been nominated to the board.

A series of exchanges between the podium and the floor lasted almost an hour, where sharply made points from Al Baker were accompanied by comments from several other airline leaders in support and topped off by Emirates Tim Clark who declared that IATA "must open up the dialogue far more" to its members.

Tyler, speaking after being officially enrolled in his new role in the final session, said: "Yesterday was an interesting day wasn't it? It shows how relevant and important IATA is to you that's a good thing.

"There was a clear message yesterday for more involvement. [If] people feel they need more transparency, we are happy to be transparent. We have nothing to hide."

The debates created an unusual a level of tension during the normally carefully orchestrated AGM. It even prompted a comment from Gulf Air boss Samer Majali when paying tribute to Bisignani as his term as director general drew to a close: "It seems the winds of change in the Middle East have reached Singapore," he said.

At a press conference held after the lively session, Bisignani was asked about the issues raised and replied: "This is a transparent association," but added: "The world has changed and this means the association must change, in a certain way."