Instead, the EU should ensure the full implementation of the global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme and pursue a long-term carbon goal at ICAO. They also urged EU States to take legislative action and policy decisions to boost the development and uptake of sustainable aviation fuels. Air France-KLM CEO, Benjamin Smith, who has been elected as A4E’s Chairman for 2020, said that airlines were united to make the new European Green Deal a success. “We see this as part of our commitment to European society,” Smith said. Lufthansa CEO, Carsten Spohr, believes the German presidency of the EU Council could make the issue a priority. Passenger convenience in less travel times and money savings used to be the main arguments in favour of reform but now there was “a new argument in town” in the form of carbon savings, he said.
In a panel session, the European Commission’s Director General for transport, Henrik Holohei, said the lack of progress by EU countries on the Single European Sky was “disgraceful”, blaming sovereignty issues and a lack of cooperation between air navigation service providers. “In the EU we have managed to eliminate borders on the ground but not in the sky,” he said, adding, “It’s time for action.” Another area for environmental improvement was in synthetic and sustainable aviation fuels, said Spohr. “This is surely the most realistic and effective means to seriously reduce emissions from aviation in the next decades. They have the mid and long-term potential to reduce emissions by 85-90%. However, volumes of these fuels are way, way too small. As example, if my airline had access to all the SAF available in the world, it would only last 36 hours. So, we have major issues around availability and the cost, which is around four to five times more than fossil fuel currently. In a highly competitive industry like ours, none of us can afford the extra cost. It is also important that in order to ensure a level playing field, our regulators don’t push us into [mandated] fuels unless it is done worldwide, otherwise it decreases the competitiveness of European airlines.”
On taxation, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said: “We would like to see the removal of rights of EU governments to use aviation as a tax grab against consumers. In the last year, EUR 16.7 billion of unilateral aviation taxes are being scammed from both the airlines and our customers under the guise of environmental taxes. None of this money is being spent on the environment and we need the Commission to push back on this.” EasyJet CEO, Johan Lundgren, said his airline had paid EUR 650 million in taxes apart from EU ETS costs in 2019. “None of them goes into what we are trying to do, which is to decarbonise. The taxes don’t incentivise efficient flying. We’re not afraid of taxes but what we want is to ensure those taxes are linked to how efficient we are operating, not to get people to fly less.”