On April 8th, 2022, USAIRE members and guests had the honour to welcome Mr. Thomas Reynaert, Managing director of Airlines for Europe A4E. Founded in 2016, Airlines for Europe (A4E) represents the united voice of Europe’s leading airlines in Brussels. 16 airlines are part of the group, which represents over 70% of European air traffic and carried over 700 million passengers in 2019. Leading global aircraft manufacturers are also members of A4E.
Thomas Reynaert started the luncheon by stating that he wanted to talk about the Covid-19, the impact of the Ukraine war and sustainability in aviation.
To begin with, he explained that Covid-19 heavily impacted European aviation: the number of passengers dropped from 720M to 270M between 2019 and 2021. Nowadays people are starting to fly again, and airlines are just starting to observe an increase in their operating margin. North American airlines are recovering faster than European Airlines. People fly more in the USA! Looking at the European traffic scenarios taking the data of 2019, the scenario looks like it will have surged as people started flying again after covid. In Europe itself, the traffic flow was increased by 6% while intercontinental flows are at 33%. M. Reynaert was clear that the coming time would be more complex, and airlines must start operating smartly to increase their revenue after the different crises.
What is the Impact of the Ukraine War on European airlines?
Due to the Ukraine war, Europe and Asia had to change their long-haul routing. Distances to reach point A from point B have increased for the airplanes due to Airspace closing in different regions. The Ukraine war also has an impact on oil prices, Russia being one of the most significant players of natural gas and oil for Europe. This is impacting even more the airlines’ margins, already highly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
What is the European airlines route to achieve net zero emissions by 2050?
A4E and all its associated partners have a clear picture of what is needed to achieve zero emissions by 2050. The strategy is built around 4 main items: sustainable aviation fuel, aircraft and engine technology, economic measures, and ATM and aircraft operations.
- Sustainable aviation fuel is the major contributor to the strategy. Technologies are available to run with sustainable aviation fuel however the production is not enough to maintain a reasonable price for the consumers. Presently, we are using biobased (HEFA), and in future, it will be synthetic. EU regulations are mandated to be 2% of SAF in 2025, 5% in 2030 (incl 0,7% synfuels), 32% in 2040 (incl. 8% synfuels).
- Aircraft and engine technology is an important contributor but developing a new aircraft is long. All technologies need to become mature before being available for airlines. OEMs are for working on new engine technologies such as hydrogen powered aircraft.
- In the short term, smart economic measures are central in the reduction of carbon emissions. For example a measure such as assigning a price to CO2 emissions would oblige airlines to take climate costs into account in their business decisions. The European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the mechanism that is implemented in Europe and which is complemented by the ICAO CORSIA scheme for international flights.
- To conclude, ATM & aircraft operations are “easier” items where we can quickly improve. improving traffic management and operations could have a quick impact on airlines’ emissions. This is a short term and low-cost solution. One of the main projects in this area is the EU Green Deal to complete the Single European Sky.
Airlines are going through a crisis, consumers and politicians are pushing and supporting the changes. A4E is working with all airlines to achieve European goals!
Thank you, Thomas Reynaert, for this inspiring event!
Deepteja Poola – MSc Aerospace Management – TBS (2021-2022 cohort) & ORAJe members