‘Low-cost airlines responsible for air transport climate debate’
At the International Air Transport Association (IATA) summit, Carsten Spohr points fingers at low-cost airlines. The president of the association and CEO of Lufthansa says their price policy not only affects the industry’s profit margin but it’s also the base for the current climate debate.
Spohr also commented on Lufthansa’s purchase of Brussels Airlines and the turmoil surrounding the company. “Since Lufthansa invested, the airline has grown: Brussels Airlines has more planes and more employees than before. I hope that most of the stakeholders in Belgium are as happy as we are. We have kept our promises”, declared the CEO of Lufthansa.
But the main issue on everyone’s lips at the IATA summit in Seoul: climate.
Low-cost airlines as culprit
“There’s something wrong when you pay less than ten euro to fly hundreds of kilometers, it’s less than the taxi or parking. I believe that there’s an imbalance between the price, the value and the impact of these flights on the environment”, declared Carsten Spohr.
“I don’t blame them to pollute, we’ve got one of the biggest low-cost airline (Eurowings). But I think that the price must be properly related to the service, otherwise politicians have arguments against us”, continues the CEO. He further notes that air transport only accounts for 2% of the worldwide CO2 emissions.
‘The right price’
“I’m very proud that we managed to democratize air travel around the world. But the extreme of a 5-euro ticket creates discussions that don’t serve the air transport sector”, adds the newly appointed IATA president.
According to him, airlines are always seen as a major culprit. He pushes other air transport actors to reduce their carbon footprint as well.
‘It’s up to us to answer’
In Sweden, air transport is going through some tough times. With the ‘Flygskam’ movement – or ‘flying shame’ – people chose other alternatives and airlines numbers have dropped. “We’ve lost 5% compared to last year on domestic flights”, explains Scandinavian SAS airline CEO, Rickard Gustafsson. According to him, air transport has become the climate debate scapegoat.
“Green political parties use air transport as the symbol of air pollution, and it’s working. It’s now up to us to answer”, he explains, “airlines have to communicate better. Climate change is a reality.”
Since February, the Scandinavian airline automatically compensates its passenger’s carbon footprint. It doesn’t cost anything to the passenger but it represents an important investment for the airline. According to SAS CEO, carbon compensation is a better solution than the kerosene tax.
“This tax won’t help anything if the raised amount isn’t automatically used to develop sustainable technologies for airplanes. If that’s not the case, it will have the opposite effect: our profitability is not huge and such a tax will prevent us from investing in less polluting aircrafts”, points out Rickard Gustafsson.
While the Swedish CEO has completely grasped the urgency of the current climate issue, it’s not the case for all his colleagues. “In Sweden, this preoccupation is in our blood. I note that the debate is starting to grow in Europe or Australia. But not yet in the USA or Asia”, adds Mr Gustafsson.
Yet, for Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, and Carsten Spohr, the Flygskam is just hype. “It’s bad information provided to young people by politicians who use them”, declares Mr Baker.