In a world where many business leaders seem to fear rocking the boat, it was a rare treat yesterday to hear a man who believes plain speaking is often necessary.
Giovanni Bisignani, the charismatic outgoing head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), gave his farewell speech to the Aviation Club of the UK in London. Those in his sights included BAA for December’s snowfall chaos (“shovelling snow isn’t that hard”), the UK government for its stance on airport expansion (the UK will be left far behind France, Germany and the Netherlands as a travel hub), and the energy industry for only paying lip service to developing non-fossil fuels.
Perhaps Bisignani’s most memorable/shocking observation was that, after decades of innovation and hard work, only six or seven airlines make double-digit margins; the rest of the industry makes such slender margins that the average is substantially below 1%. According to Bisignani, it is difficult to see how this situation can possibly be sustainable over the coming decades (i.e. governments should help this sector, not hit it over the head).
It is not hard to see why Bisignani has been so effective representing an industry, and clear that his successor Tony Tyler has a tough act to follow.