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Single European Sky Regulation must be agreed before additional decarbonisation costs imposed on airlines

By  Brussels, — Last updated on 11 December 2023
  • SES regulatory reform is an immediate, cost-efficient decarbonisation solution – national politics continue to undermine progress and environmental benefits.
  • Policymakers urged to support aviation’s sustainable recovery from the COVID crisis – rising carbon prices, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) mandates and “green” aviation taxes will increase airline costs without directly reducing CO2 emissions.

Brussels, 10 June 2021 – National agendas and sovereignty concerns continue to undermine much-needed updates to the Single European Sky (SES) Regulation — the backbone for more cost-efficient, harmonised European airspace of the future — with EU Member States agreeing last week to roll back proposed reforms in favour of measures which would benefit their monopoly-owned air navigation service providers (ANSPs), instead. At the annual Airlines for Europe (A4E) Aviation Summit, airline leaders reiterated their demands that policymakers put sovereignty interests aside to adopt a more ambitious reform of the SES Regulation, which would immediately benefit the sector’s decarbonisation goals and European citizens alike.  The current Regulation has been under discussion since 2013.

“It makes no sense environmentally or economically to expect the aviation industry to invest billions into SAFs or new aircraft and at the same time, continue to delay the long-overdue introduction of more fuel-efficient airspace. Airspace reform is a short-term, low-cost solution to the climate crisis”, said A4E’s Managing Director, Thomas Reynaert.

Meanwhile, the cost of carbon allowances under the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) has more than doubled compared with pre-pandemic levels and increased by 140% since May 2020. Air travel is the only transport sector included in the ETS scheme, with airlines purchasing carbon credits to help offset their emissions since 2012.

“The COVID crisis is a clear opportunity for both industry and politicians to join forces and build our sector back greener and smarter. Yet, as seen at last week’s EU Transport Council, proposals for meaningful reforms continue to be thwarted by national interests”, Reynaert added.

While more cost-efficient operations and improved air traffic management represent the starting point for aviation’s wider decarbonisation ambitions, the imposition of costly aviation taxes further stifles the industry. In the last year alone, European countries including Spain and the Netherlands have decided to move ahead with the introduction of new taxes, which could drive up the cost of travel and hinder airlines’ capacity to invest in the green transformation.

“Let’s be perfectly clear, once again — taxes do not reduce CO2 emissions. They are counterproductive and will simply make flying more expensive during a time when airlines are trying to recover from the worst crisis in our history. Furthermore, they take money away from the sector which is needed for sustainability investments”, said Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet and A4E’s 2021 Chairman.

“Governments should rather focus on helping our sector meet ambitious emissions reduction goals under Destination 2050 by championing financial and regulatory support for green technologies, investments in net zero aircraft and innovative fuels”, Lundgren added.

As EU leaders finalise the upcoming ‘Fit for 55’ package and Climate Law discussions, A4E CEOs continue to urge policymakers to:

  • Guarantee the competitiveness of the European aviation industry;
  • Ensure a level playing field by pushing for more ambitious progress globally (ICAO);
  • Support industry investments through incentives or by reducing risk through a consistent and stable policy framework;
  • Stimulate further development and deployment of innovations by funding research programmes and promoting carbon removal technologies.




Media Contact:

Jennifer Janzen, Communications Director, A4E

+32 499 828294