The technology is there for aviation to lower emissions but there is no political will in Europe to help airlines achieve it, Willie Walsh has said.

Speaking during a Eurocontrol panel, the Irish airline executive who is currently the director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said: “We have to improve our performance. And the same politicians will do nothing to address the structural inefficiency that exists in Europe because the political will isn’t there.

“The technology is there, airlines have already invested in the technology to enable them to fly their aircraft much more efficiently than we’re able to do so.

“If we’re genuine about addressing this challenge on sustainability, we have to address every aspect of us, because we know today that 10-12 per cent of CO2 could be avoided in Europe if we had a more efficient ANSP [air navigation service provider] structure in Europe, and there’s nothing stopping that other than political will.”

Single European sky

One way that European policymakers have sought to improvise the efficiency, and therefore sustainability, of air travel is through the single European sky (SES) initiative, which was launched in 1999 to improve the performance of air traffic management and air navigation services by better integrating European airspace.

The benefits could include a tripling of airspace capacity by 2030-2035, compared with 2004, while improving safety tenfold and reducing the environmental impact of aviation by 10 per cent.

Operating aircraft like the 70s

But Walsh, who until 2020 was CEO of International Airlines Group, and before that CEO of Aer Lingus and British Airways, added: “We should call it out all the time. When people tell us as an industry that we have to improve we’ve got to tell these people, you can make a big difference. It’s crazy to think that we’re still operating aircraft today, the way we were in the 70s.

“We’re still flying the aircraft in effect in the same manner as we did in the 70s and 80s. When the technology onboard the aircraft today is so much more efficient. It’s just too important. We can’t ignore it.

“Whether we call it the single European sky or whether we call it, ‘get off your a*** and sort out this inefficiency’, it needs to be done.”
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