The speedy implementation of a unified aviation regime in Asia-Pacific would allow greater airline growth says Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Regional Vice President, Asia-Pacific.

Asia-Pacific is an extraordinarily diverse region. There is a rich variety of cultures and languages, an innovative assortment of airline business models, and infrastructure in sundry states of readiness for the huge surge in air travel demand.

That demand is largely coming from a burgeoning middle class. It means air traffic in Asia-Pacific will more than double from some 1.6 billion passengers today to more than 3.9 billion passengers by 2037. During that period, aviation’s benefits will also double from the current 30 million jobs and almost $700 billion of economic activity supported by air transport across Asia-Pacific. 

One of the keys to unlocking the value of aviation in Asia-Pacific is a unified regulatory regime for the industry, similar to Europe or the United States and aligned with global standards. Distinct national regulations hinder airlines operating across borders, as they mean greater complexity and higher compliance costs.

States will come together when they see the value of convergence and harmonization. Distributed multi-nodal air traffic flow management—already in effect between some Asia-Pacific destinations—is a case in point. It allows for better management of precious airspace capacity.

One of the keys to unlocking the value of aviation in Asia-Pacific is a unified regulatory regime for the industry, similar to Europe or the United States and aligned with global standards

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an integral part of the region, is well-placed to enjoy the fruits of a unified aviation structure. It already has a Transport Strategic Plan for 2016–2025, which sets out the strategic goals for aviation, including traffic rights, licensing, safety, security, and operating permits. Hence, ASEAN does not need to reinvent the wheel. But closer and speedier collaboration between ASEAN and the airline industry would ensure greater success in achieving these goals. 

This is why IATA is proposing an initiative alongside ASEAN, focusing on four priority areas for greater regulatory convergence: 


  • the mutual recognition of aviation personnel licenses to help ensure human resources can better meet increasing demand;
  • the mutual recognition of ASEAN airlines’ security programs to allow for a safer, more efficient network;
  • an ASEAN policy on the flexible use of airspace, especially collaboration between civil and military users;
  • the creation of a single sky, including a Seamless ASEAN Sky, to underline the effective use of airspace to meet user demand.

The airline industry taking a proactive role in determining the key issues and next steps would bring several, significant advantages. Airlines would benefit from streamlined procedures, for example, while the principle of equivalence, where an application to one State would hold validity in all ASEAN States, would be a notable development to ease compliance issues. 

Asia-Pacific’s rapid growth in aviation demand means ASEAN should quickly adopt a unified regime. However, this will require significant commitment and effort by ASEAN to look beyond individual national interests and make progress 
in areas like regulatory harmonization.

This will not be easy to achieve, given the existing distinct national regulations and differing levels of regulatory maturity, but the rewards make the effort worthwhile.