The International Air Transport Association (Iata) cautioned governments in the Middle East and North Africa against airport privatisation moves and called for urgent measures to minimise traffic delays.
The global body of airlines also called for bringing under control rising airport costs in the Mena region to preserve competitiveness.
In a statement, Iata warned that if urgent progress is not made in solving traffic delays, they could double by 2025 costing over $7 billion in lost productivity and adding over $9 billion to airline operating costs. The average delay per flight attributed to air traffic control issues in the region is 29 minutes, Iata said.
Alexandre de Juniac, Iata's director-general and CEO, sounding a note of caution on airport privatisation plans in the region, said as Saudi Arabia and others across the region consider airport privatisation, "our message is clear and simple: talk to all stakeholders - especially the airlines - to ensure that you gain the best long-term economic and social benefits."
"There is no need for governments in the region to repeat the mistakes that have been made in other parts of the world. Consultation is not just key, it is a must," said de Juniac.
Speaking at the Arab Air Carriers' Organisation annual general meeting in Cairo, the Iata chief said aviation currently supports 2.4 million jobs and $130 billion in economic activity across the Mena region.
"That represents 3.3 per cent of all employment and 4.4 per cent of all GDP in the region. Over the next 20 years, we expect passenger numbers to grow by 4.3 per cent annually. As aviation's leaders, we must work together and with governments to realise this potential - and the economic and social development that it will catalyse," said de Juniac.
He highlighted improving aviation infrastructure and enhancing competitiveness while working toward regulatory harmonisation across the region as essential.
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