IATA - International Air Transport Association


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has an ongoing interaction with ICAO, i.e. the Air navigation Bureau, the Air Navigation Commission (ANC – IATA and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) are the only organizations granted permanent observer status to the ICAO ANC), and the Regional Affairs Office; IATA contributes to various ICAO Technical Panels. In drafting standards and practices for civil aviation, the cooperation between ICAO and IATA is vital. IATA’s Legal Committee has maintained close links with ICAO, presenting the airline industry’s views on international conventions. To ensure that cooperation between IATA (representing the international airline operators) and ICAO (representing the various national governments) would be simple and effective, and that they work closely together to further the development of international civil aviation, both Organizations are located in the same city from their inception in 1945.


IATA is an international industry trade group of airlines headquartered in Montreal, Canada, close to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). IATA was formed in April 1945, in Havana, Cuba. At its founding, IATA had 57 members from 31 nations, mostly in Europe and North America. Today it has about 230 members from more than 140 nations in every part of the world, representing 93% of the international air traffic. It is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association, founded in 1919.


1949 - Cancel commemorating the 30th anniversary the creation of IATA and  showing the Peace Palace situated at The Hague, Netherlands

In many countries, air services, whether domestic or international, were launched during 1919 on a sustained basis; the latter year is usually considered as the birth of air transport. There was sufficient air transport activity by the middle of that year, so that representatives of five air transport companies from Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden met at The Hague, Netherlands from 25 to 28 August 1919 and signed an agreement to form the International Air Traffic Association (IATA). For the records, the Dutch company KLM was represented at the meeting, and signed the agreement immediately after its foundation on 7 October 1919. The expressed aim of the original IATA, with its Central Office at The Hague, was the establishment of unity in the operation of air routes of affiliated organizations whose systems were of international importance.


It is interesting to note that the Convention Relating to the Regulation of Aerial Navigation was signed by 27 States on 13 October 1919. This new Convention consisted of 43 articles that dealt with all technical, operational and organizational aspects of civil aviation and also foresaw the creation of the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN, i.e. the Organization preceding ICAO) under the direction of the League of Nations; ICAN came into being on 11 July 1922. The ICAN provided machinery for the governments to discuss and standardize the facilities for which they were responsible. At that time, there were no international systems in existence covering weather reports, radio communications, etc.; although all equipment was extremely simple, it was necessary to start from scratch in devising procedures and allocating responsibilities. IATA and ICAN cooperated in all those technical fields where it appeared useful.


All of the power, responsibility and authority were vested in semi-annual meetings of the entire IATA membership. From the very beginning, the emphasis was on standardization in all areas of airline operations. While the IATA semi-annual meetings continued to function as a committee of the whole handling any matters that were presented on the Agenda, the necessity for study and the preparation of reports led to the creation of various specialized committees, i.e. traffic, radiotelegraphic, legal, postal and cash examination. The expanding air transport network resulted in improved organizational efficiency of IATA, largely because of the existence of various committees, so that the general meeting was made an annual affair from 1937.


USSR – 1927

1st International Air Mail Conference

IATA gave particular attention to the major source of business for the airlines in the 1920s, i.e. the carriage of air mail. Called by the official initiative of the Postal Office of the USSR, the first International Air Mail Conference, held at The Hague in September 1927, established the airlines as officially recognized mail carriers. This was a true achievement, as there was considerable reluctance at that time on the part of many postal administrations to entrust their mail to the new mode of transport. Further to the creation of the Postal Committee at IATA, direct consultations were held with the Universal Postal Union (UPU) on many questions of mutual interest. In the 1930s, attention was given to the organization of night mail services and year-round links among countries.


As regards the conditions of carriage, the airlines faced a vast array of differing national laws concerning passenger and cargo transportation. It appeared essential for this situation to be covered by an international treaty; the Warsaw Convention was born in October 1929 which, although subsequently modified by a number of Protocols, had set an effective world pattern, i.e. an internationally accepted upper limit to airline liability in case of passenger fatality and also the basic procedures and practices for conditions of carriage and for traffic documents. This convention was followed by the Rome Convention of 1933 which established liabilities between airlines for damage to aircraft on the ground or in the air, and damage to third parties on the ground. The IATA Legal Committee was actively involved in the development of those international legal instruments.


Through regular meetings among the IATA members, considerable progress was made in coordinating timetables, a subject of great importance at a time when flight frequencies were relatively low and when each airline served only a limited number of destinations. Although establishing fares and rates was not within the purview of IATA, voluntary measures for adjusting tariffs were proposed by the airlines interested in a given route during their group discussions. In the operational and technical areas, a great deal of progress was made in establishing industry standards and operating procedures with a view to increasing performance, reliability and security.


The 1930s in general saw cooperation amongst world airlines advance rapidly under IATA, with many new technical standards and commercial air transport regulations developed. This included the technical standardization of cockpits, fire prevention, marine airports, and ice accumulation, as well as standards governing revenue accounting and traffic management.


In 1934, the old IATA replaced a preliminary emblem with a new one, representing more adequately the aeronautical, peaceful and international character of IATA’s work. This emblem was retained by the new IATA and replaced in the early 1950s by a newer one.


IATA Early emblem used until 1934


IATA Emblem used from 1934 until the early 1950s.


IATA Emblem from the early 1950s until 1995.



IATA Emblem from 1995.

The old IATA was able to start small and grow gradually and was also limited to a European dimension until 1939, when Pan American Airways joined. It had developed a remarkably extensive and firm foundation on which further expansion could be based. With the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, civil air transport in the accepted sense virtually came to a halt and the activities of IATA were put in cold storage. However, the advances made during the Second World War were instrumental to the realization of the eventual global framework; events gathered momentum in the late 1944 when the allied and non-belligerent governments held the International Civil Aviation Conference in Chicago; the presence of a number of international air transport enterprises in Chicago was considered an opportune time to hold a meeting looking towards the organization of a new association.


A meeting of international operators was held at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago on 7 December 1944 at 9:30 (in Room No. 2) to appoint a drafting committee to prepare the draft of the organization and articles for an international air transport association. This committee met at the Carlton Hotel, Washington, D.C. from 11 to 14 December 1944; during the course of this meeting, Dr. Luis Machado, of the Cuban Expreso Aero Inter-Americano, extended an invitation, on behalf of his country, to hold the organization meeting at Havana in the spring of 1945. Forty-one airlines from 31 countries met there from 16 to 19 April 1945 for the International Air Transport Operators Conference and founded the new IATA (named International Air Transport Association), with the mission to promote safe, regular and economical air transport, to provide means of collaboration among the air transport enterprises, and to cooperate with ICAO; they adopted the Articles of the Association. The aims and objectives of the old IATA were thus broadened to include an active role in the establishment of fares, rates and charges for the carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo. The Havana Conference unanimously elected Mr. H.J. Symington (President of Trans-Canada Air Lines) as the first President of the Association and also decided that the first annual meeting be held at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal in October 1945; 300 representatives from the aerospace, aviation and aircraft industry met from 16 to 19 October for the first IATA Annual General Meeting. The meeting adopted the original version of the Provisions for the Regulation and Conduct of the IATA Traffic Conferences and elected Sir William P. Hildred, Director General of Civil Aviation in Great Britain, as Director General of IATA, effective April 1946; the ICAO Council bestowed the “1965 Edward Warner Award” on Sir Hildred, a few month before his retirement from IATA in 1966.


Advertisement published in the newspaper The Gazette on 15 October 1945, welcoming the first Annual General Meeting held at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal.

Article II of the IATA 1945 Statutes states that “The Head Office of this Association shall be maintained in the city in which the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization is located.”; this article was later amended to leave an opening for a possible other place as determined by the General Meeting. When ICAO moved in 1949 to its new headquarters at 1080 University Street, IATA used office space for its quarters in the same Terminal Centre Building as ICAO, at 1060 University Street. The current Head Office of IATA is located in the Quartier International of Montreal and Executive Offices are in Geneva.


During the Chicago Convention in 1944, no general agreement could be reached as to the manner in which international fares and rates were to be established; it became apparent that some kind of inter-airline machinery would be required for this purpose. The Bermuda Agreement reached on 11 February 1946 (at the end of the Civil Aviation Conference held in Bermuda from 15 January to 11 February 1946; this Agreement was expanded in 1977) by the American and British negotiators, was an early bilateral air transport agreement regulating civil air transport; it was rapidly followed by a number of very similar agreements between other pair of states, making it clear that that the airlines were responsible for the first instance for agreeing fares and rates and related conditions.


Although the Articles of Association of the new IATA made no provision for Traffic Conferences, it became obviously necessary that such conferences be established, at which fares and rates could be discussed and agreements be reached for submission to the interested governments.


A Clearing House was established in 1947 at IATA for interline billing and settlement. Of crucial significance for the worldwide system were the measures taken over the years by IATA for standardization and simplification of tickets, air waybills and other documents used by passengers, cargo, airports and travel agencies. IATA’s technical work is supervised by its Technical Committee, whose activities can be grouped under several headings, such as avionics and telecommunications, engineering and environment, airports, flight operations, medical, facilitation, security, etc.


 There is no doubt that IATA fulfills a vital role for the airline industry. Although individual priorities have changed considerably as time has passed, there is a growing demand for the Association’s services; international air transport system has grown to a highly sophisticated and global business.


Several countries issued stamps or postmarks either to commemorate the IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in their country or to highlight the international cooperation between IATA and ICAO.


Over the years, ICAO and IATA have worked together closely, the common goal being to benefit air transport.


IATA should not be confused with FIATA, representing the freight forwarding industry by many other governmental organizations, governmental authorities, and private international organizations in the field of transport. FIATA (in French "Fédération Internationale des Associations de Transitaires et Assimilés", in English "International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations") was founded in Vienna, Austria on 31 May 1926; it is a non-governmental organization representing today an industry covering approximately 40,000 forwarding and logistics firms. The FIATA Secretariat is located in Glattbrugg, Switzerland.


Copy of the short agreement signed at the organization meeting of IATA at The Hague on 28 August 1919. It bears the signature of the chairman of the session, Major General Sir W. Sefton Brancker, who represented Aircraft Transport and Travel, Ltd.


From left to right: J.C. Kelly-Rogers of Air Lingus; Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, BEA Chairman; Igor Sikorsky. Picture taken in 1949.

In the background, IATA emblem used from 1934 until the early 1950s.


IATA 4th Annual General Meeting held in Brussels, Belgium, from 14 to 18 September 1948.

It shows the emblem used by IATA at that time. Postmarked on 17 September 1948.

The cover was issued for the 25th anniversary of the Belgian airline SABENA, Société Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation Aérienne, founded on 23 Mai 1923, which succeeded SNETA (the Syndicat National pour l'Étude des Transports Aériens, formed in 1919, was the first air transport organization in Belgium) and acted as the Belgian national flag carrier. On the day of its foundation and as shown by the cachet, the inaugural flight with a load of freight and mail went from Haren (Brussels) via Ostend to Lympne in the UK, carried by an Airco D.H.9 aircraft (ex-bomber aircraft registered O-BIEN in 1923, re-registered OO-IEN later in 1929).

The blue-grey stamp depicts a SABENA Douglas DC-4 (registered OO-DAA); a label in honour of Albert Van Cotthem (1890-1962), officially recognized as the Dean of Belgian Aviators, is affixed.


Cover sent by the International Union of Official Travel Organizations

to Sir William Hildred – Postmarked on 17 September 1961.


Cancel commemorating the Traffic Conference, held in Salzburg, Austria in 1963.


Japan – 1959

15th Annual General Meeting of IATA

Iran – 1970

26th Annual General Meeting of IATA

Philippines – 1979

35th Annual General Meeting of IATA

Jordan – 1997

53th Annual General Meeting of IATA


France – 1954 - 10th Annual General Meeting of IATA held in Paris.


IATA’s Headquarters were located in the same building as ICAO’s Offices

on 1000 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal.


IATA Service cover sent to ICAO – Postmarked on 28 April 1995


Malaysia – 1995 – 50th Anniversary of IATA.


Philippines – 7 December 2009 – 65th Anniversary of ICAO.

This souvenir sheet highlights the global cooperation between ICAO and the Philippines’s Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and various bodies of the country and other organizations of the world, among which IATA.