Airline Industry | In Focus

Evolving threats to civil aviation will almost certainly drive demand for investment in new security technologies to detect and mitigate against security threats while leaving total global air passenger traffic relatively unscathed because of strong growth drivers. Industry analysts anticipate that the global aviation sector's growth in 2016 will exceed the 6.5 percent growth in passenger traffic last year. Drivers for growth include increasing air traffic volumes in China, South East Asia, and the Middle East as well as sustained lower global oil prices. 

Recent deadly plane crashes, including Russia (March 2016) and Egypt (October 2015), as well as the terrorist attack at the airport in Brussels, Belgium, present wildcards that will likely only affect the industry's growth on the margins.

  • Airlines will manage varying levels of additional capital costs for fleet maintenance and security as well as losses for intermittent reductions in air traffic volumes in markets affected by terrorism. 
  • While the aviation sector may be an attractive terrorist target, as commercial air traffic has steadily grown so too has the industry's safety record, suggesting it possesses the responsiveness required to address modern aviation threats. In 2008, about 1 million people died in road accidents worldwide compared to 1,000 fatalities in plane crashes.
  • Aviation is also the fastest and arguably the most comfortable means of long-distance travel, virtually ensuring continued air passenger traffic growth well beyond the more than 3 billion passengers carried by air in 2014.

The attractiveness of this industry for attacks is unlikely to diminish and demands continued security investment to match the evolving threat. Aviation is a soft target with high symbolic value and media exposure. Attacks are costly for the airlines, affected families, and countries involved. Successful attacks also have the strong potential to cause political embarrassment and scrutiny, as is the situation now with international attention pivoting to the failed aviation security screening processes in Egypt.

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