A4E Calls Out EC for Lack of Single European Skies Progress

 - December 8, 2021, 12:41 PM

Airlines for Europe (A4E) on Wednesday called on Europe’s Transport Ministers to “refocus” efforts toward implementing the Single European Sky (SES) 2+ regulatory proposal, adding that the European Commission’s failure this year to make what the industry group calls any significant necessary regulatory updates has undermined pledges by the aviation sector to deliver on its 2030 and 2050 decarbonization targets. European Union (EU) member states continue to resist prioritizing emissions reductions over their own “national sovereignty and influence,” said A4E.

“We are dismayed and frustrated by the continued lack of progress during the SES trilogues,” said A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert. “The unwillingness of some member states to compromise and help reform our costly, inflexible, and fragmented ATM system in Europe is extremely concerning. The Single European Sky is a short-term, low-cost way to reduce aviation emissions, and it’s a shame that this has been lost from the political focus.”

A4E noted member states “are caught in a conflict of interest” because they own the monopoly air navigation service providers (ANSPs) that control their national airspace. The updated SES regulatory proposal calls for a competitive framework for ANSPs and allows airlines to pursue “climate-optimized” flight routings.

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) has sought to compel air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and their airline customers to operate more fuel-efficient routes as it aims for up to a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions based solely on air traffic management (ATM) improvements. DG MOVE officials addressing a November 10 EASA Safety Conference called for stronger political leadership and legally enforceable measures to compel the industry to achieve a significant improvement in operational efficiency.

During the conference, DG MOVE deputy director-general Christine Berg said the body plans to introduce a common unit rate for air navigation fees to remove incentives for airlines to fly less direct routes to benefit from lower ANSP charges. She added that the agency intends to structure fees to reward airlines with “better climate performance” with lower ATM charges.

A4E, however, continues to express frustration with the lack of progress toward the implementation of such proposals. DG Move officials and industry stakeholders had hoped for an agreement on a new charging structure by the end of but member state governments appear divided on the issue and any deal would still need approval from the European Parliament.

“We call on Europe’s Transport Ministers in their meeting tomorrow to refocus their efforts on this important file and push for the necessary compromises during the upcoming French EU Presidency,” added Reynaert. The meeting, convened by the EU’s Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, will feature several sessions on sustainable air transport, including the ReFuelEU Aviation proposal and a policy debate on alternative fuels infrastructure. It lists SES 2+ under the category of “Other Matters,” which also includes a directive on the use of hired vehicles and carbon offsetting for aircraft operators.