Embattled aviation sector faces Belarus fallout

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These are trying times for the aviation sector. The list of challenges facing the industry seems to grow weekly.

The EU-sanctioned bailouts keeping airlines afloat amid the COVID-driven downturn are being challenged, at times successfully, in the courts.

Major EU environmental legislation mandating sustainable aviation fuel is set to be announced, heralding an unprecedented push to green the industry and leading to discord among low-cost and legacy airlines.

And now the state hijacking of a passenger plane has exposed the airspace over Belarus as unsafe, forcing airlines to reroute established flight paths.

Even for a sector used to turbulence, this is a lot to contend with. But perhaps the most immediate challenge is the geopolitical tension caused by the Belarus incident, which continues to reverberate.

Last week saw Air France cancel a flight from Paris to Moscow after Russian authorities refused to approve a new route bypassing Belarus.

Belarus remains a firm ally of Moscow – in fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko enjoyed a leisurely boat ride together earlier in the week.

The EU’s decision to effectively ban European carriers from entering Belarusian airspace has also had an unfortunate knock-on effect on the environment.

Air traffic management agency EUROCONTROL estimates that the longer routes taken by airlines to avoid the former-Soviet nation are responsible for around an extra 250,000 kg of CO2 emissions per day.

The event has also impacted pilots, who are outraged by the tactic of using a false bomb threat to force a plane to land at a non-EU airport.

“Pilots would now feel they have to factor in in their decision-making a judgement about the motivations and the trustworthiness of the information provided depending on the country they are overflying. And that’s not realistic. If trust in the system is gone, safety is compromised,” said Arik Zipser, board director for technical affairs with the European Cockpit Association, an industry group representing pilots.

Read more about the practical effects of the decision to avoid Belarusian airspace below.

Private jets’ impact on the public

Green NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) released a report targeted at private jets last week, excoriating them for their environmental impact.

“Flying on a private jet is probably the worst thing you can do for the environment. And yet, super-rich super polluters are flying around like there’s no climate crisis,” said Andrew Murphy, aviation director at T&E.

Private jets are 10 times more carbon intensive than airliners on average and 50 times more polluting than trains, according to the report.

The study shows that CO2 emissions from private jets in Europe increased by nearly a third between 2005 and 2019.

The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) responded to T&E’s report, pointing out the sector’s efforts to decarbonise, such as the adoption of sustainable aviation fuels.

“Our track record shows we welcome a greater push towards a sustainable business aviation sector, but it’s important we do not misrepresent the true economic value, business benefit and societal impact the sector truly makes,” said EBAA Secretary-General Athar Husain Khan.

(Vaccinated) tourists welcome

Those who have had the chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19 may enjoy test and quarantine-free travel this summer if the European Commission gets its way.

The EU executive is arguing that those who have been vaccinated 14 days prior to travel shouldn’t have to undergo the up-to-now standard COVID checks.

“Freedom of movement is one of EU citizens’ most cherished rights: we need coordinated and predictable approaches for our citizens that would offer clarity and avoid inconsistent requirements across member states,” said Stella Kyriakides, the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

However, this push by the European Commission is simply a recommendation – member states remain free to apply their own rules.

Indeed, whether one vaccine dose is sufficient to forego quarantine and testing remains at the discretion of individual EU countries. Read more at the link below.

Floating above the glass ceiling

It was announced this week that Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will take charge of the International Space Station in 2022, becoming the first European woman to do so. Known as “AstroSamantha” in Italy, Cristoforetti was the first Italian woman to go to space and the third woman to spend time on the space station, EURACTIV media partner ANSA.it reports.


A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

Emissions soar as airlines reroute to avoid Belarusian airspace

Detours taken by airlines to avoid entering Belarusian airspace following the forced landing of a Ryanair jet are responsible for around an extra 250,000 kg of CO2 emissions per day, air traffic management estimates show.

EU executive urges reopening in summer to vaccinated tourists

The European Commission proposed on Monday (31 May) that vaccinated people should be exempt from testing or quarantines when travelling from one EU country to another, and urged a gradual easing of travel measures as COVID-19 inoculations accelerate.

Commission admits fossil fuel share ‘likely’ higher in transport without multipliers

Without multipliers – a statistical methodology used to encourage the uptake of renewable energy in transport, primarily in electric cars – the share of fossil fuels in transport is “likely” to be higher than the official figures published by Eurostat, a European Commission source told EURACTIV.

Biofuel makers protest against EU’s green investment taxonomy rules

Biofuels made from food-and-feed crops do not meet the EU’s green taxonomy criteria, according to a European Commission proposal, a move biofuel makers said will hamstring Europe’s ability to meet green transport goals.

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