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IATA AGM: The funny, witty and OMG moments

by Ahmad Lala on Jun 9, 2013




The IATA Annual General Meeting held in Cape Town last week allowed the aviation industry’s top brass to address and provide solutions to a number of growing global concerns. However, it was alsoan opportunity for those same executives to display their sense of humour and wit. We have recorded some of those moments below.

OMG moment:

Emirates president Tim Clark pulling out his brick-shaped, black-and-white-screened, dumb-capability mobile phone on stage – to prove to the audience that he is not on Twitter. Ironically enough, the text-speak phrase OMG may thus also be lost on him.

Did he really say that? moment

"We sold a virgin and got another one."

Goh Choon Phong, CEO, Singapore Airlines, commenting on his airline’s decision to sell its stake in Virgin Atlantic and then buy shares in Virgin Australia.

"I voted that there is a level playing field, because we get screwed everywhere."

Willie Walsh, CEO, International Airlines Group (IAG), on which way he sided on the poll question asking: Is there an equal playing field for airlines around the world?

Cat out of the bag moment:

IATA traditionally do a dramatic revealing of the host of the next year’s AGM at the end of the event, but on Monday afternoon an on stage panellist slipped up and mentioned that Qatar Airways would host the event in Doha next year. An IATA official quickly shouted out from the audience – “you’re not supposed to reveal that”.

But the airline CEOs on stage took it as a cue to throw some playful jibes at Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, seated in the front row. Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong took it one step further when he was asked about his prediction for the industry next year. “Well, we will all be enjoying the hospitality of Akbar in Qatar next year,” he replied.

We are coming for you moment

Dubai Airports has made it quite clear it wants to be the busiest airport in the world. So when Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths got on stage, he turned his sights on the only airport that stands between Dubai and the number one spot – London Heathrow. “Why is it 89% more expensive to land an airplane in Heathrow than in Dubai,” he asked.

Put on the spot moment

Eithad Airways has stakes in a number of airlines and, through these dealings, has fully supported its partner carriers in many ways.

It was however, Etihad CEO James Hogan who found himself on the receiving end of a comment claiming that governments in Africa were giving Middle East airlines preferential treatment while ignoring the continent’s carriers.

Hogan was taking part in a panel discussion titled “Unlocking Africa’s Potential” at the IATA AGM.

“This is news to me,” said Hogan. “As Etihad, we are taking advantage of the opportunities in Africa like any other of the other carriers entering the market.

“In Africa, from my perspective, it is about building relationships, you have to work through the government bilateral processes, and there is no easy path to achieve – I have found Africa as hard as anywhere to access.

“But I do think what we bring, as Gulf carriers, is hubs and connectivity. And at the end of day, people want access to the markets. I understand the issues domestically that need to be addressed, but whether it is the Gulf carriers, the European carriers – we’re not the only ones in this region - I believe with the tourism, the trade, the economic value we bring – we are playing a key role.

“I will argue, from my perspective that we’re not favoured. We have to go through the appropriate processes and we are very much keen to partner and cooperate with local carriers – which we have been doing. So I don’t agree with the statement,” he added.


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