MIAMI – As the IATA Global Media event comes to a close, let’s take a look at two important and rather concerning topics discussed on the closing day.
While day one covered topics such as the latest economic trends, the challenges of the restart, infrastructure costs, and diversity, day 2 yielded conversations on the environment, zero carbon emissions, and airport slots.
The Environment: Getting to Zero Carbon Emmisions
Conducted by Willie Walsh, Director-General
Sebastian Mikosz, Senior VP Environment and Sustainability
Undoubtedly the most important topic, the move towards a sustainable future, IATA sheds light on its targets, progress, and expectations from global bodies. Three key elements were discussed during the event
Back in 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to address CO2 emissions from international aviation. CORSIA aims to stabilize net CO2 emissions, at 2019 levels, from international civil aviation by 2021.
“The CORSIA project is a mid-term strategy to stabilize emissions. As of today 104, members have volunteered to sign the scheme which binds to annex 16 of ICAO and more importantly transfer into their legislation. We expect more members to sign this in the coming months.” Sebastian Mikosz stated.
The IATA Aviation Carbon Exchange, or ACE, is a centralized marketplace for CORSIA eligible emission units where airlines and other aviation stakeholders can trade CO2 emission reduction.
IATA reported that over 1.5 million tons have already been traded and its aims for 2.2 million tons by the year-end. The program doesn’t end there, it’s also implied to the livelihood of the community in line with the UN’s sustainable goals.
As the EU commission recently drafted a tax plan on the aviation sector (kerosene) within EU member states, IATA stands strongly against this move as it sees no positive outcome and states that it’s an ineffective and inefficient way to decarbonize.
“A blunt instrument which can severely delay fleet renewal”
The panel went on to say that there is absolutely no evidence that the money collected through taxes would actually be put into effective SAF development or other cleaner aircraft technology.
A heap of taxes already exists in many nations such as the Netherlands, an additional one can have an impact on passenger buying decision power as the fares might go beyond their budgets.
IATA further stated, “Don’t tax but focus more on ramping up SAF. Decarbonize with a long-term view in mind, not a short one.”
Sustainable Aviation Fuels
Another hot topic, Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). The development of SAF is crucial and complete govt support is imperative.
On the positive side, Airlines are buying more SAF despite costs being three times higher. (graph) SAF is more suitable for long-haul flights.
The major problem of concern is with the production of SAF. The current supply is extremely limited, and the costs are naturally high. IATA stressed the need to ramp up SAF production across the globe with various major oil companies. Governments play an important role and can significantly affect the pace of SAF development.
Positive contributions such as incentives, conditions, and funding from not just a few governments, but the majority across the globe can bring about a positive worldwide SAF implementation program. Simply stated, SAF is a long-term deal, and steps must be taken to get there as soon as possible.
When asked about IATA’s position in regard to the use of Hydrogen with the given SAF availability issue, IATA went on to say…
“Infrastructure for Hydrogen is already in place at most airports. The problem with Hydrogen is that it would need to be produced in a clean and efficient manner, which is a fairly hard task. It needs more work than implanting SAF.”
“Airbus expects to bring their Hydrogen based aircraft into the market by 2035, we welcome it”
Another problem to notice is that Hydrogen based aircraft from airbus are expected to serve the short-haul sector, leaving the long haul to SAF.
“We’re not depending solely on SAF, we see Hydrogen and electric-based aircraft as a good alternative. Also, not to forget about the growth of carbon-capturing technology.” Said Willie Walsh.
At the moment the SAF blend, legally, cannot be more than 50%, so the transition to 100% SAF is a long way off. Currently, the EU plans to maintain a 2% blend and gradually raise the percent every year.
Increasing the production and support from various governments is the key to making SAF a reality in the long run.
Conducted by Dimiter Zahariev, Senior Manager Worldwide Airport Slots
Rikke Christensen, Vice President Networks, Alliances and Commercial Planning Virgin Atlantic / Chair IATA Slot Policy Working Group
International air travel significantly lags behind its domestic counterpart, and this trend is evident worldwide for the simple fact that travel restrictions between several countries still exist.
Domestic travel is at an average of 70-80% pre-pandemic level while International air travel is currently at 20% of 2019 and there hasn’t been any improvement since. It’s an urgent need to restore global connectivity.
Several countries and regulators have opened to slot flexibility to airlines. The slot flexibility is a big relief to airlines, allowing some room for a breath.
When travel restrictions come into force, passenger demand changes significantly and hence airlines need to plan a change in their schedules as soon as possible. Slot flexibility is imperative at such times.
Virgin Atlantic: Case Study
Virgin Atlantic (VS) has been hit hard. More so because it operates only wide-body aircraft on long haul routes – No domestic market to bring in any additional revenue.
The airline has consolidated its bases to only London Heathrow (LHR) and Manchester (MAN) and has implemented heavy network changes.
The airline had a period where it literally operated no flights, they had to start from scratch and rebuild. Focus on cargo was an important goal, they launched 14 new cargo routes the same year. Close monitoring on passenger demand and growth made VS venture into new markets such as Pakistan, a country they never operated to pre-pandemic.
As Rikke went on to say, “Even today, 85-95% of our schedules change last minute. Frequency, crew, passenger numbers, cargo, everything constantly changes and everything we plan is only short-term sight.” while a traditional long-haul carrier must plan on long-term trends.
“Without slot flexibility, this wouldn’t be possible. There is slot access at LHR even today with the concept of slot flexibility, preference will be given in order to secure the slot for the future as well.”
She concluded by stating that slot flexibility must be in place at least until most travel restrictions are in place and also fears the coming winter might not bring in sufficient passenger demand with cargo being the only option.
Featured image: Pexels.com