IATA is urging EU states to get behind the project to reform Europe’s air traffic management system or watch it collapse.
IATA director general Willie Walsh said the Single European Sky (SES) agreement offers a number of benefits, including improving safety performance by a factor of ten, greater capacity and fewer delays, a €245 billion boost to Europe’s GDP thanks to better efficiencies, a million extra jobs by 2035 and a 10 per cent cut in aviation emissions.
However, he warned that a failure by individual European countries to get behind the project means the benefits are not being appreciated or remain sustainable.
Walsh said: “The European Commission has been trying to deliver the benefits of SES since the early 2000s. But state inaction has meant that none of its targets have been met.
“New legislation, as proposed by the commission, is the only way to force the reform and improvements that are desperately needed. But the intransigence and selfishness of key EU states and their air navigation service providers (ANSPs) threatens to collapse the latest commission effort.
“The Covid-19 crisis makes the efficiency gains of the SES more critical than ever. And the climate crisis makes the sustainability benefits essential.
“Europe talks a good game about the importance of sustainability and competitiveness. It’s time to put action behind those words with the SES.
“If the combined weight of the climate crisis and the Covid-19 crisis are not sufficiently compelling drivers for SES, it’s hard to know what could be.”
Walsh added the SES has so far failed because ANSPs have had inadequate targets and insufficient independent oversight.
He said the commission’s proposal provides a remedy by giving regulators the power to enforce robust performance targets, something IATA strongly supports.
Walsh said: “Air traffic control is a monopoly business. In every other business sector, monopoly suppliers are subjected to strong independent regulation—but not in air traffic control.
“European states make grandiose statements about climate action yet refuse to back common-sense reforms that would force ANSPs to make routings more efficient. And, oblivious to the €27 billion collective loss made by European airlines last year, Europe’s ANSPs are demanding further price increases while sitting on at least €2.5 billion of cash. This is pure madness.
“But, instead of driving solutions at this critical time, many states are positioning to block reforms and we are in serious danger of moving backwards.”
Walsh added those in favour of blocking the reforms were hoping for an alternative version of the current scheme with weaker targets and regulatory oversight, which could ultimately kill off all the reforms.
Walsh said: “Such a catastrophic failure of the commission’s proposal would take years to recover from. We would have lost a real opportunity for change when it is vitally needed.
“And the environment and the European economy will pay a high price for that, along with travellers and airlines. It’s time for states to put an end to years of short-sighted political manoeuvring and administrative paralysis and support the commission’s proposal to finally deliver a Single European Sky.”