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Outlook Summit opens with call for surging Asian aviation to lead global industry

Peter Harbsion, Executive Chairman of the Centre for Asia

Pacific Aviation, opened this year's Aviation Outlook Summit with a call for

the stakeholders of the Asian airline sector – carriers, airports and

government law-making bodies – to take the lead role in setting the aviation

course of the 21st Century.

While acknowledging the necessity of addressing such burgeoning issues as climate change and the shortage of skilled manpower, Mr Harbison explained that it is in the area of regulatory change and liberalisation that Asian aviation must lead. With regulations on market entry and national ownership stifling the sector in other regions and threatening the ascendancy of the Asia Pacific industry as it begins its march towards being the world's biggest generator of traffic, this is the area where the region's players are best able to assume the mantle of leadership, he said.

The Executive Chairman noted that momentum is already building in this area, and it is – as has become almost commonplace – the low cost sector that is catalysing change. Mr Harbison illustrated how regional standard-bearer, AirAsia, has used the joint venture mechanism to expand its brand from being a strictly Malaysian entity to operating a successful service in Thailand and Indonesia and, soon, Vietnam.

Similarly, it was the success of that airline and the benefits it generated for the economy as a whole that catalysed the formerly protectionist Malaysian Government to allow it to compete with the state-owned flag carrier on the vital long-haul markets from Kuala Lumpur and open up the flagship route to Singapore ahead of the Dec-08 ASEAN-imposed deadline for capital city liberalisation.

Although liberalisation has not spread uniformly, there have been encouraging signs coming even from the last regional hold-out: North Asia. The limited open skies treaty signed between Japan and Korea, as well as Japan's steps towards liberalising entry at secondary airports through its Asian Gateway Programme all hint at a new era of stronger intra-regional traffic growth.

These are the examples of what can be done, Mr Harbison said. Furthermore, they are examples of what must be done if the region is to claim the leadership mantle that is there for the taking. To make this happen, he urged further government moves towards deregulation, especially of the low cost sector. "The industry can point the way – and it must," he closed his address in saying. "But the road must be built by the regulators."

Aviation Outlook Summit 2008 is the fourth meeting of the Centre's annual review of the Asia Pacific and Middle East airline industry and its future prospects. This year's gathering is focused on the need for Asian industry participants to play a leadership role in the events, that continue to shape the global aviation sector, especially as the region begins to generate the largest share of world traffic.

Aviation leaders from all segments of the industry have assembled in Singapore to discuss and debate how the regional sector can proactively assert itself in such vital fields as the environment, liberalisation and the necessary evolution of the aviation business model, for both full-service and low cost airlines.

The event's organiser, the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, is the region's leading independent air transport research and analysis group. With offices in New Delhi, Singapore, Geneva, Vancouver and the UK, the Centre is the consensus authority on matters related to all elements of Asia Pacific airlines and airports.