Regional Vice President for Europe, International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Europe, and Greece, is well placed to benefit from a return to travel, but a number of key challenges need to be addressed.
Greece is a jewel in Europe’s crown. No traveler can say they have visited Europe unless they have spent time exploring the Greek islands, gazing upon the Acropolis, and understanding more about Greece’s ancient history and powerful contribution to European and world culture. Modern Greece is a vibrant tourism and business hub, and air connectivity plays an absolutely essential role in that. Of course, during the pandemic the tourism economy particularly suffered. But the recovery since then has been very strong. Greece recovered faster than in Europe, now up1.5% versus March 2019.
This is an encouraging number and points to a strong summer. But that means that the industry, particularly our airport and air traffic control partners, have no excuses not to be ready. And governments need to play their part too: customs, borders and passport agencies all need to be working efficiently. Air traffic management is a concern. The pressure on Eastern and South-Eastern airspace has increased significantly as a result of the Ukraine war. On top of that we are seeing strikes, personnel issues and other problems. Unfortunately, Greece lacks a long-term solution and strategy to solve problems with Air Traffic Control. This summer we will see reduced capacity at Greek destinations with high tourist demand.
Beyond this summer, there is a longer-term challenge which we must all meet – the challenge of sustainability. Unless we ensure aviation is on a flightpath to eliminating carbon, then as an industry we face the possibility of being restricted through other means – and this would negatively impact countries like Greece more than many others.
When airlines set out our vision to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, at the IATA AGM in 2021, we worked out an approximate pathway to how this would be delivered. Sustainable Aviation Fuels are by far the most important element. They will comprise around 65% of the carbon mitigation that will be needed by 2050. That means airlines will be using roughly 450 billion litres of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). New technologies such as hydrogen planes are exciting prospects but they are still some way off from becoming a widespread reality.
We think that by 2050, such technologies will be contributing only around 13% of the carbon reduction. Improving the efficiency of current technology, operations and infrastructure is vital to keeping emissions growth down. Elements such as the Single European Sky, to reform European airspace, could reduce emissions in Europe by 10%. It’s essential that politicians get to grip with this project.
Finally, we believe that there will be some emissions that we cannot eliminate from our tailpipe, and to deal with these we will use offsetting in the short term, transitioning to carbon capture and storage solutions, which will actually remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Over the coming months IATA will be issuing several net-zero ‘roadmaps’ which will set out in greater detail how we will deliver on these various strands of our strategy. One thing is clear: airlines cannot do this alone. It will require industry partners, manufacturers and fuel producers to step up. And governments can help by setting out stable regulations that will facilitate the efficient transition to a sustainable future.
Several European countries, including Greece, have elections this year, and it is vital these do not delay political action in support of delivering the Fit for 55 policies of the EU, especially support for SAF.
SAF is our number one priority.
At the moment, there is not enough SAF being produced, and prices are too high.
Greece could play a significant role to improve this situation. We call on the government to set out its own national framework for developing SAF and ensuring it is available at airports throughout Greece. As a country that derives so much prosperity from travelers arriving by air, Greece has much to gain from being in the vanguard of creating a sustainable aviation industry.