Boeing Exec Sees Limits to ‘Flight Shame’ Movement

 - December 9, 2019, 11:00 AM

Europe’s strong focus on climate change will drive airlines to continue to renew their fleets with more efficient airplanes and, while environmental sustainability will remain a top priority, the “flygskam” or “flight shame” movement has not engulfed all parts of the region, assessed Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth. Speaking in Brussels during the OEM’s recent market outlook briefing to stakeholders, Tinseth stressed that in emerging Europe—and in other developing economies across the world— “flight pride” still prevails among a growing middle class. “There are no homogenous views on flight shame. It is a broad and diverse world,” he said, adding that he sees no reason for shame in what the industry has achieved. Air transport is a catalyst of globalization and supports 3.6 percent of world GDP and 67 million jobs, he said, adding that airlines produce 80 percent of their carbon on routes where no other mode of transport is available.

The industry needs to come together to update and simplify the message, he said, as he identified the environment as one of the four “watch items”—along with the economy, geopolitics, and infrastructure—for airlines and OEMs. “We are responsible for only 2 percent of global CO2, but we must do better,” he insisted. “We have to continue advocating responsible flying and responsible air traffic as we move forward,” he added, while calling on governments to play their role and support the development of sustainable aviation fuel [SAF] to help the industry reach its goal of halving CO2 by 2050. “None of the governments are doing enough [to upscale the production and uptake] of biofuel. We need at least 2 percent of fuel to be biofuel to give sufficient track,” Tinseth said. Meanwhile, in Europe a more efficient air traffic management could deliver a 10 percent efficiency gain overnight, he asserted.

Tinseth anticipates that 2019 will prove another “good year” for European airlines, with positive earnings and traffic growth. In the first nine months, Europe posted the highest passenger traffic growth measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) of all regions. It also achieved record load factors because capacity grew less than traffic due to the Boeing 737 Max grounding and several airline bankruptcies, according to Tinseth.

Looking forward, Boeing projects a need for 8,990 new aircraft over the next two decades in Europe, of which 55 percent or 4,910 deliveries will involve the replacement of older aircraft and 4,080 to support growth. The company expects RPKs to grow 3.6 percent per year—compared with a global average of 4.6 percent. Intra-EU passenger traffic will by far remain the largest market driven by low-cost carriers but traffic between Europe and emerging economies such as China will achieve the highest yearly growth rate.

Growth projections do assume the environmental challenges airlines in Europe face, Tinseth noted.

CEOs of Europe’s largest airlines will head to Brussels early this week for a meeting with new European transport Commissioner Adina-Ioana Vălean ahead of the publication of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s so-called European Green Deal. CEOs have expressed concern that the manifesto will include a raft of new policy instrument proposals to reduce air transport’s climate and environmental effects, such as a SAF blending mandate, the introduction of a tax on kerosene for intra-EU flights, and the strengthening of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) for aviation.