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Air Transport is Critical to European Business Success, Says Survey

Photo source: IATA

Photo source: IATA

Air transport is critical to the success and competitiveness of the vast majority of European business leaders, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Conducted between 18 and 26 October 2022, the online survey interviewed a total of 500 leaders (54 percent C-suite, 46 percent senior managers) of businesses with 100 or more employees, with an even split of participants among France, Germany, Spain, Finland and Ireland.

Photo source: IATA

Photo source: IATA

All business leaders surveyed said their business used air transport for cross border activities (either exclusively or in combination with domestic activities).

According to the survey’s findings, business leaders confirmed the critical nature of air transport to their business success:

“The message from these business leaders is clear and unequivocal: air transport is critical to their business success,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh.

Some 61 percent of business leaders surveyed rely on aviation for global connectivity—either exclusively (35 percent) or in combination with intra-Europe travel (26 percent). The remainder (39 percent) primarily use intra-European networks. Reflecting this, 55 percent reported that their offices are purposefully located within an hour of a major hub airport.

“As European governments plot the way forward amid today’s economic and geopolitical challenges, businesses will be relying on policies that support effective links both within the Continent and to Europe’s global trading partners,” Walsh added.

Priorities, areas of improvement

With 93 percent reporting positive feelings towards Europe’s air transport network, a wide range of views on areas for improvement was expressed. When asked to rank their priorities the following areas were included:

IATA’s director general highlighted that the cost, quality and sustainability of air transport are important for European business.

“These expectations have been underlined in IATA’s longstanding calls on governments to support greater efficiency in air transport,” he said.

According to Walsh, implementing the Single European Sky will reduce delays while effective economic regulation of airports will keep costs under control and ensure adequate investments.

“And meaningful government incentives to expand the production capacity of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are critical to the industry’s commitment to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050,” said Walsh.


Moreover, business leaders surveyed showed confidence in aviation’s decarbonization efforts:

The business leaders surveyed believe that the priority for aviation’s decarbonization should be on finding technical solutions for people to continue to fly sustainably.

Using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) was the most-preferred solution (40 percent) followed by hydrogen (25 percent). The least popular solutions were pricing carbon into the cost of travel (13 percent), reducing flying (12 percent) and encouraging the use of rail (9 percent).

“There is confidence in the business community that air transport will decarbonize. Business leaders strongly favour the technical solutions of SAF… We need policy incentives to increase production capacity in Europe that would also bring prices down,” said Walsh.

Air or Rail?

While 82 percent of business leaders surveyed stated that air connectivity is more important than rail connectivity, a choice of efficient modes of transport is important for their business activities. They reported that the rail network is an adequate alternative for business travel (71 percent), and 64 percent said that they would use rail more often for business travel if the costs were lower.

“While four in five the business leaders surveyed identified air transport as being more important than rail, they rely on both forms of transport. It is also clear that they do not want to be forced into choosing one over the other,”Walsh said, adding that Europe will be best served with cost-efficient and sustainable choices for all forms of transport.

“That’s an important message for all policymakers that is coming directly from Europe’s business community,” he highlighted.

IATA represents some 290 airlines comprising 83 percent of global air traffic.

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