PEOPLE can't lose sight of the fact that air travel provides important global connectivity and spurs economic growth, even as airlines come under increasing pressure to cut their carbon footprints, according to Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle.
“The GDP halo effect, the economic catalyst, and the social benefits of connectivity and travel are very important,” he told an audience today at the Airline Economics Growth Frontiers conference in Dublin.
“Ireland is an island economy and we need connectivity, we need mobility,” he said. “We’re a global economy and Aer Lingus and the airline industry plays an important role in the wider development of the economy and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.”
Mr Doyle said the sustainability issue has been “building and building” over the past 18 months. The issue was raised at a number of discussions today at the Airline Economics and the Airfinance Journal aviation conferences in Dublin.
“I think it’s very much here to stay,” said Mr Doyle of sustainability. “It’s going to be a defining feature of our lives and the way we do business. The airlines are very high profile in this debate. We’re 2pc of global emissions, but we are very much in the spotlight. We need to be proactive. There’s no point in putting our heads in the sand.”
“This is going to be a transition and a journey,” he said.
Separately, Mark Streeter, the managing director of airline and aircraft credit at JP Morgan, told the Airfinance Journal conference this morning that aviation “isn’t going away”.
“JP Morgan has identified a dearth of city pairs susceptible to sailboat substitution,” he said, referencing climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who has sailed across the Atlantic rather than fly.
“Aviation isn’t going away, but neither is the climate change movement,” he said. “Exacerbating the situation is the fact that aviation’s contribution to global CO2 emissions is set to increase because GDP is growing and air traffic is growing at twice the rate of GDP.
“So, the 2.5pc share of emissions currently from aviation is set to grow to 3.5pc by 2030, despite all the efforts that everyone is making,” Mr Streeter said.
He pointed out that 80pc of the emissions are from flights that are more than 1,500km in distance.
He said that some airlines are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions by investing in more fuel efficient aircraft, and other measures as they focus increasingly on so-called ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance issues.
Mr Streeter also said JP Morgan is a “little sceptical” about how viable aircraft financing will be for Green investing.
“Just because something emits a lower amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, doesn’t necessarily make it environmentally friendly in the eyes of some of the investors that are very focused on carbon,” he added.