As political unrest continues to haunt the Middle East and North Africa, IATA's new vice-president for the region, Hussein Dabbas, does not intend to let its governments forget the crucial role aviation can play in restoring damaged economies, while reinforcing the Association's key messages - safety in particular.

The industry plays a key part in the region's economy. The aviation sector in the Middle East alone supports 2.7 million jobs and representing $129 billion in economic activity - as well as containing some of the world's fastest-growing carriers. Dabbas says it is imperative that development in the MENA region occurs in a safe and sustainable fashion.

Based at IATA's regional headquarters in Amman, Jordan, the former Royal Jordanian chief executive says one of IATA MENA's key challenges will be to improve safety and security in the region. He sees the IOSA and ISAGO audits as the key weapons in achieving this.

"Several countries in the region require IOSA as a prerequisite to fly to their countries, or even over it, and we are trying to widen that as much as possible," he says.

Yet doing so will "not be very easy" he says, "because a lot of regulations need to be implemented and laws need to be changed. There are airlines in the region that are still not IATA members, and we are approaching them to see that they fulfil the requirements and they see the benefits of joining".

There are 28 IATA airline members in the region - another will be announced during this week's AGM in Beijing - ­ but Dabbas says there is still much to do to make the region's governments see the importance of ­ensuring their airline members ­become IOSA certified or full IATA members. "Aviation is about safe classification and we cannot afford anything other than that," he says.

"We continuously advocate the value of ­airlines to governments, civil aviation ­authorities and all ­aviation-related industries and help mitigate any challenges they might face," he says. "We keep emphasising that aviation is the engine of growth for most economies in the world and many countries are ­realising this."

Source: Flight Daily News