|Participants for 59th ASPA General session (Photo by Leata Alaimoana)|
Last week was a stimulating week, definitely to the aviation senses! I participated in the 59th ASPA GENERAL SESSION, 5-6 December, 2013 at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Apia Samoa. Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA) was established at the directive of the South Pacific Civil Aviation Council which met in Apia on 22-23 June, 1978. The first meeting of regional airlines, held in Suva on 7-8 March 1979 formally agreed to launch the Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA). The inaugural meeting of ASPA took place in Suva on 30-31 May 1979, when the Articles of Association were adopted. ASPA is a trade association, representing the interests of member airlines, and is operated on a not-for-profit basis.
The main theme of this session was 'Business First, Safety Always'. There were important topics presented and discussed at the two day session. ASPA Secretary-General, George Faktaufon said the theme for this year’s meeting is Business First, Safety Always—shifting the focus to the bottom line of any business which is making money. “The reason we have this theme this year is that we have always been safety driven and dealing with someone else’s needs while our own needs, to make money, have been neglected,” he said. “We can be safe as part of our business but if we cannot make money, then we will not have a business to run. We will try to change the focus to making money with safety being an important part of that process.”
IATA presented a paper on the aviation and environment challenges and opportunities. This was the first presentation about the role of the industry in addressing environmental issues such as gas emissions, carbon footprints and ways for airlines to look at some practical solutions. Then the state of the South Pacific industry was examined. So far, our small and medium airlines are doing well regardless of the limited resources that we have. Boeing of course came in with a positive outlook, everything is on the rise including South Pacific airlines looking to order new fleet,replacing old and dying aircraft. This also means there will be increasing upgrades to our current fleet as time goes by. Great for passengers and perhaps not so good for airlines as aircraft cost millions. Several companies presented new technology that could be an advantage to airlines in the future such as ticketing systems and distribution models. Other presentations included those of air traffic services and the vision of uniting the whole South Pacific flight regions. This may look and sound brilliant however, there must be an incredible amount of dialogue as each island has sovereignty over their own airspace.
Our South Pacific aviation industry is not independent, it heavily relies on other service providers for its continuous survival. What I took away from this session is that no matter how expensive our aircraft is, how brilliant the customer service may be but if we do not put 'bums on plane seats' our airline business remains risky. In addition, before we focus on controlling operations and adopting fancy safety management systems that will cost us time and money, we must know our standards first because we cannot improve on what we don't know. Our quality assurance systems are never 100% full proof, they are unreliable as we do not have consistent auditing results. Much work has to be done and this will not be done overnight. We have to keep cooperating as small islands and learn in order to improve and keep our aviation industry afloat. We may be small and isolated but together we are the South Pacific. Together, we work for our people and this in itself should be a catapulting motivator to do better, to hope for the best.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." ~ Unknown