- Jerry Dempsey served as IATA chair after congress in Dublin
- Dublin AGM complained about illegal discounting and over capacity
- Pots calling kettles black was verdict of one aviation writer
The first Irish-born chair of the International Air Travel Association was Jerry (Jeremiah Francis) Dempsey who took over the association presidency from Hudson Fysh of Qantas IATA on September 14 1962.
Ireland had just hosted the IATA AGM in Dublin on September 10-14 at the same venue as the press briefings for the 2016 meeting, the RDS library.
Following the working sessions at the RDS the meeting transferred to the Shelbourne Hotel. Unlike the IATA AGM of 2016, it rained heavily on the 1962 delegates.
Aviation highlight of the conference was the first appearance of the BEA de Havilland Trident outside of Britain when it brought 50 delegates from London. This was a controversial move. Aircraft manufacturers waited around the wings of the AGM, despite a 1959 edict that they were not welcome at the IATA AGM.
Trans-Atlantic aviation pioneer Colonel Jim FitzMaurice returned to Ireland to attend the event. Another attendee was Qantas press officer John Ulm, the son of Australian pioneer Charles Ulm (the man whose aircraft sank in Portmarnock strand in 1934).
Board members were entertained by President Eamon de Valera at Áras an Uachtaráin (pictured above). Keynote speaker on the second day of the event was John Moore Brabazon of Tara (his 1942 peerage was English, a controversial reference to his distant Meath ancestry), the first Englishman to pilot a heavier-than-air machine under power in England, and the Westminster government’s Minister of Transport and Aircraft Production during WW2.
IATA had 92 member airlines from 71 countries at the time, Panama Aeronatiques and Air Afrique were newly joined and three companies had ceased to be members.
Tanao Senda of Japan Airlines was regarded as the celebrity CEO of those attending. William Mullamore of Air Ceylon, Gordon McGregor of Trans Canada Airlines, Walter Berchtold of Swissair, William Deswarte of Sabena. RM Suguto of Garuda Indonesian Airlines..
Defining the IATA sandwich
Humility was obviously not the strong point of either the organization or IATA’s Director General since 1945, William Hildred who told the Irish Press “as a machinery of legislation, IATA contains a system of checks and balances which makes the Constitution of the United States seem a rather elementary exercise. As a method for the mass production of effective international agreement, it may contain some lessons for the United Nations.”
Sean Lemass and Erskine Childers gave the ceremonial addresses to the 1962 IAA AGM. The meeting discussed the problems of all weather operations, ruled that Instrumental Flight Rules would apply to all flights for the following April, regardless of weather, and decided to convene a technical meeting the following spring.
Restructuring the industry’s tariff structures and the streamlining of electronic communications were mentioned by Jerry Dempsey although he cautioned that IATA’s role was not to interfere with the pricing of air tickets. He told the press that low occupancy and over capacity “could not be touched” by the meeting, but it was. He told delegates that the industry needed a low-cost aircraft of reasonable speed to bring travel to the masses over the busiest stages of 200, 300 and 400 miles. Airlines were also worried about supersonic travel and drew up guidelines for manufacturers. There were also concerns about the effective of radioactivity from nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Gossip in the halls was that BOAC and BEA would merge sooner or later (they remained separate until Westminster forced them together, eventually, in 1974..
JF Dempsey first attended the IATA AGM at Havana in 1945 when he subscribed to the member agreement on behalf of Aer Lingus. At that meeting IATA, which had started in 1919 as an agreement between airlines on throttle-setting, moved into the areas such as airline ticketing, inter-line agreements and a standardised ticketing clearing house. The regulatory environment was extended to minimum contracts, classes, excess baggage charges, and travel agent terms. The system by which IATA standardised tickets, calculated ticket prices and established routing mileages was frequently the source of conflict between Aer Lingus and other member airlines during the 1950s and 1960s. Aviators of a certain age still joke about how IATA apparatchiks came up with the definition of a sandwich.
Delegates were entertained at a state reception at Dublin Castle, by the Lord Mayor at the Municipal Art Gallery (to which the Beit paintings had been returned the previous year) and at a banquet in Bunratty Castle where 15th century menu was served. Cork airport also hosted the IATA chair and director general.
Some banter. One airline man described his chairman as “a man who goes into a swing door behind you and comes out in front.” An American becomes quite incensed with the protestations of an Asian who declares that he cannot take responsibility for the discount ticket selling of a salesman. “Well then, get rid of him.” “I can’t,” comes the reply, “he’s an American.”
Aer Lingus secretary PJ Brennan acted as liaison officer for the delegates and Mrs Brennan organized social activities and outings for the wives and families of the delegates.
From Flight Global: Scarcely a delegate, when asked if he finds these airline meetings worthwhile, fails to comment that for him their main value lies in the opportunity they provide for talking to and getting to know fellow-professionals he might never otherwise see. Everyone gets on well together: Communist delegates and American delegates. Arabs and Jews—even, as an Irishman remarked, the Irish and the British. There is an answer to those who, between mouthfuls of Galway Bay Oysters and Glazed Castlebar Bacon, or between visits to a horse-jumping show at Powerscourt and a cruise round Dublin Bay, wonder whether the hospitality might perhaps be a little too lavish. In fact, there are two answers: first, Ireland has a tourist industry, as indeed has every country where these annual meetings are held. What better opportunity to show off the country’s attractions than at the summit meeting of the producers of air transport? Secondly, the Irish are an immensely hospitable and friendly people. Once the “annual host airline” principle is established, national hospitality—like airline cabin service—is something which IATA cannot easily control. Whether this principle, like the old economy class sandwich, is falling victim to runaway quality competition may well be something for IATA’s executive committee to consider for future years. No one would suggest that these meetings should be held, like the current fares conference at Chandler, Arizona, in the middle of a desert, to ensure that delegates are not distracted by the fleshpots of a social calendar. There has to be a social side; nevertheless, a formula could perhaps be found for regulating hospitality competition. One thing is certain: no country could surpass the warmth and the charm of Irish hospitality. By far the biggest talking point at Dublin was fare-cutting. This has been going on for years of course, and IATA’s corps of enforcement officers has been growing steadily.
Rate cutting: kettles & pots
Much of the first day was a determination to stamp out rate cutting. Hildred in his report said it was clear that some member airlines had fewer and fewer scruples about breaching traffic conference resolutions and that the effects of this were very ugly indeed.
Our 88m passengers have never had it so good, with handsome illegal discounts available world-wide and with plenty of room to stretch out across the empty seats in our lovely new 600mph jets.
Hildred denied IATA was a cartel (questioned, again by the Irish Press) but said he was unhappy with rate cutting in the Middle East, South America and parts of Germany. “But I can tell you that Dublin is clean”. BOAC chairman Michael Slattery said that his airline had lost £1m in the far east in tickets which were thrown back at him by passengers “who had been bribed to fly by other airlines.”
Hudson Fysh, handing over the chair to Jerry Dempsey also spoke of the “anarchy” that existed in the form of illegal rate-cutting, and said: “This has now reached the point where any continuance cannot be tolerated if IATA is to continue its work.”
The report in Flight Global (see archive here) suggests that this was not as straightforward as Fysh would have us believe:
Without doubt this was the problem uppermost in the minds of the majority of the 200 delegates who gathered in Dublin last week. Though rate-cutting is nothing new in IATA, this disorder in the house has never been so deplored in public. Every delegate at Dublin knew (but would not name publicly) who are the naughty members; and mere was cynical amusement at the “pots” who had been calling kettles black. The meeting of the IATA Executive Committee, which followed the address by Lord Brabazon, was certainly the most crucial of this year’s meeting. “Stringent measures” to stamp out price-cutting were announced. According to one IATA official. Lord Brabazon received the biggest ovation the Association has given a guest speaker. Yet, when the glow of his essentially good-natured and witty speech had worn off, and when delegates saw the headlines in the Irish evening papers and the following morning’s London dailies, a feeling of resentment began to take root. His words were not minced.
John Moore Brabazon’s speech to IATA
Lord Brabazon’s full speech is in the Flight Global archive.
: “To come back to your charter, to promote safe air transport. Here I accuse you of misfeasance. You have not done all possible. Henson, writing to the great George Cayley in 1850, presented him with a drawing of a most pretentious machine. Cayley replied: ‘We must hurry slowly; before flight is made safe, a hundred necks will be broken.’ For understatement in prophecy that stands supreme. How little did he realize people would have to tolerate a major air disaster a month, for that is what is happening today. “Mr Lundberg, a reliable prophet, forecasts that if the rate continues on the basis of one passenger killed in lm passenger-miles, at the end of the century we shall be killing 10,000 passengers a year, with a crash every other day. “Is public confidence in flight waning? If so it is the fault of operators who want to load their craft to the maximum with consequent high take-off and
landing speeds. Modern practice of taking off and landing at 140kt is basically unsafe, however many times you do it without accident.”
“Lastly to promote ‘air transport for the benefit of the peoples of the world. So far your interpretation of peoples of the world is to help the rich to travel vast distances at very high speed and cost. The people of the world are hungry for safe short hauls at moderate cost, yet this today when it is done is by obsolescent machines. “It would be refreshing to find the slow speed end of flight studied a little more for short hauls. A big machine carrying two people in comparative comfort at up to 250mph but landing at no more than 60kt should be safe, welcome and pay. Surely the future of economic flight lies along these lines, then we can dream of outrageously expensive supersonic craft. We live, of course, in a crazy world, but let us at least be sane. Here you are for a week in dear, wise, old Dublin to confer. Make the most of it, you have much to do.sir
Jerry Dempsey 1906-1993
Jerry Dempsey, born October 14 1906 at 15 Victoria Villas, Clontarf, was the son of a postal clerk, educated at the CBS, Westland Row, and at UCD, where he graduated B.Comm. (1927). He captained UCD’s soccer team, played for Bohemians and was a member of the Irish Free State team that competed against Scotland in a junior international in 1927.
Dempsey was articled with Peterson, Morrison & Co. and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1931. He joined Kennedy, Crowley and then of Irish Tanners, Portlaw (1935–6) before being recruited to the post of secretary and accountant of the fledgling Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta in 1937.
When the Irish aviation business contracted during World War II he also became secretary and accountant of Irish Shipping. In January 1943Dempsey was appointed general manager and secretary of Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta (the airports’ authority) became general manager of Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta, and Aer Linte.
He orchestrated the airline’s premature postwar expansion programme and was behind the position to use Lourdes as a hub for European operations from 1954. In 1958 it started its first service to the USA. He was a founder member of the Irish Management Institute on December 9 1952 and instituted its first formal training courses.
Dempsey was a director of Bord Fáilte from 1955 to 1973 and for a period of nine months in 1955 was acting director general. In 1957 he became a member of the board of Aer Lingus, while retaining the post of general manager. He retired as general manager of Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta in March 1967, though he continued as a director of both companies until July 31 1976. He died January 14 1993 in Dublin.
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