It was an urgent, and at times angry, alarming message that leading AEA executives voiced at A4E’s 2023 Summit held on 29MAR23 in Brussels, demanding that the EU Commission act. The call is for fundamental reforms to promote the decarbonization of aviation and to enable European carriers to compete on a level playing field. Otherwise, an entire industry faces an inexorable loss of importance and competitiveness, A4E representatives warned in their dramatic appeal.
Besides basic reforms, what is mostly needed is a mental U-turn of Brussels’ policy makers and a swift course-setting to support the European aviation industry, enabling its well-being and
survival, concorded Michael O’Leary, Ryanair, Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa, and Johan Lundgren, easyJet. This begins, for example, with the EU Commission’s support of SAF production by tax reductions
complemented by additional revenue to finance its output and availability. This influx of funds could be achieved if the Emissions Trading Scheme is rolled out worldwide, ending its current EU
limitations, suggested Carsten Spohr, CEO of the Lufthansa Group. This would channel huge funds into the EU coffers which should be spent on incentives and innovation to lower the carbon
footprint of aviation, one of the key challenges that the industry is facing. Pushing ahead with SAF would end a bottleneck situation, lead to a circular economy, and reduce the carbon footprint
of airlines. Compared to traditional Jet A-1 fuel, SAF leads to 90% less greenhouse gas emissions when burned.
Paving the way for a circular economy
Mr. Spohr literally said at the A4E event: “We need incentives to scale up SAF production to achieve green aviation. Europe already lost the global race in e-cell production, photovoltaic, and now we are constantly losing ground in the field of a sustainable and circular economy. Europe is too slow and inflexible. This ought to be changed - fast.” Already today, European green economy companies are increasingly investing in the U.S., because of favorable tax conditions compared to levies payable in most EU countries.
SAF must be affordable and available in sufficient quantities
What is required is a mélange à trois between the aviation industry, SAF producers, and policy makers, Spohr said. Calculating emissions in relation to the total distance flown by a passenger or an air freight shipment, would also reduce competitive disadvantages for European airlines compared to those with hub operations in Istanbul, Doha, Baku, or the United Arab Emirates. Spohr reminded the audience that 30% of Lufthansa's total expenses is attributable to kerosene. This price has to be multiplied by five, considering the current SAF costs. Only through economies of scale, promoted and encouraged by the EU Commission, is a price alignment achievable, said Mr. Spohr, directly addressing the Directorate-General, Climate Action, of the EU Commission.
SES – a never ending (sad) story
A second, likewise imperative appeal to the EU policy makers was voiced by the leading A4E trio: to urgently implement the much-debated Single European Aviation Sky (SES). “For twenty years, we have been talking about this issue. However, the result is nearly zero,” Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet bemoaned, demanding fast action from the EU Commission in the same breath. CO2 savings of up to 10% could be achieved immediately, said the executive, since airlines would no longer need to zigzag across Europe, forced to circumvent restricted military areas or other no fly zones. According to Mr. Lundgren, easyJet could avoid 19% CO2 emissions on the Paris-Milan sector if it would be allowed to take the direct air route. Implementing SES “would be the quickest and least expensive way to lower CO2 emissions,” exclaimed Mr. Lundgren during his A4A presentation.
Airlines need special rights in case of strike actions
Ryanair helmsman and panelist, Michael O'Leary outed himself as an admirer of Greece and Italy. Airlines could overfly both countries even if their air traffic controllers were on strike. This makes air services predictable in contrast to France. There, a walkout of air traffic controllers, airport fire fighters or security personnel leads to the complete shutdown of airports, and it prohibits airlines from using French airspace. The alternatives that carriers face are to either fly widely around the country or to cancel flights altogether. As Mr. O’Leary said, the latest strikes in France have so far affected more than 400,000 Ryanair passengers. And the unions' protests are continuing. Strikes are legitimate, but the EU Commission must ensure that a country at least allows airlines to overfly its territory in times of labor disputes, Mr. O'Leary addressed the EU Commission, demanding that they act. Italy and Greece are perfect examples of how this can work without causing annoying and costly network intrusions, the executive concluded.
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P Balasubramanian (Monday, 03 April 2023 02:39)
One wonders whether EU authorities are in touch with reality? The whole world is bending its back to help and promote sustainability in every little and big way possible. Hope someone will spur the whole mechanism to immediate action.
Heiner Siegmund (Monday, 03 April 2023 11:16)
Thank you for your commenting on this report and Winfried's reaction to our critical article "Aviation's 2050 Net Zero lie".
It's always a pleasure to exchange views with industry experts of your caliber. Look fwd to your next input.