The aviation industry is going through turbulent times. The Covid-19 pandemic, geo-political tensions and an existential climate crisis have all impacted operations, budgets and strategies. As we look ahead to 2024, what predictions does our Chief Commercial Officer for Aviation, Jean Demars have for the industry?
The big issues
Climate is number one. Against a 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 55% compared to 1990, in 2021 net EU GHG emissions had fallen by 30%, while prosperity significantly increased over the same period. This achievement includes emissions from international aviation and takes the carbon sink from the land use, land use change and the forestry sector into account. But with a challenging geo-political situation, the ongoing war in Ukraine, unrest in Azerbaijan and the conflict in the Middle East, the role and resources of the military has become increasingly important. Extending beyond aircraft and airspace, it’s clear that priorities in 2024 will shift to encompass not only decarbonisation but also civil-military cooperation and cybersecurity. It will affect all aviation actors, but the lead will be at pan-European and State level.
From the ATM perspective, decision makers will be focused on delays, Single European Sky requirements like datalink, flight object, ADS-B, cybersecurity, civil-military coordination, new ATM users like eVTOL aircraft and of course, environmental performance. These will need tracking in terms of compliance with regulation and technology performance. Innovation in these areas will be key in the next decade, and resilience and scalability of ATM will remain a key aim to address resourcing and economic concerns. To achieve these goals, we expect to see decoupling of service delivery via virtual centres through ATM Data Service Providers (ADSP) to improve efficiency. We are moving to an era more centred on the end user and this could lead to the introduction of new players bringing disruptive new services and to the creation of industrial partnerships between traditional players. Some major European ANSPs are already looking for innovative partnerships in preparation for a new future.
A crossroads for aviation
Airlines are intensifying efficiency efforts and focussing on fleet renewal and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) initiatives. In Europe, SAF blending mandates and increased carbon pricing will likely elevate ticket prices. The Refuel EU aviation regulation requires a 2% SAF blend by 2025, 6% by 2030, with a gradual increase up to 70% by 2050. With the industry average in 2022 standing at 0.3%, there is clearly room for substantial improvement.
In the air, the best solution looks likely to be hydrogen aircraft for long haul travel, electric aircraft and advanced air mobility (AAM) for shorter hops – but these are decades away. In the interim, SAF are the focus, alongside operational measures such as continuous descent operations, trajectory-based operations, electric taxiing and essential research into non-CO2 emissions. And let’s not forget hybrid technologies, which can also play their part while we wait for hydrogen and SAF scale up to take place.
On the ground, we are seeing a shift away from transport that requires fossil fuels, buildings that primarily consume enormous amounts of concrete and steel and unsustainable power usage. The demand is for renewable buildings that are self-sustainable, generating their own energy using thermal glass technologies and employing rainwater regeneration techniques.
Environmentally friendly transport options to and from the airport, will also be under the spotlight. Multimodality is the watch word, as evidenced by the revised Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Directive, making high quality and timely data available for services such as multimodal journey planners and navigation services. The EC envisages a smarter and more interoperable transport system allowing more effective management of traffic and mobility across different transport modes such as air, rail and road. Proper integration of aviation and rail would bring enormous benefits, but progress is slow.
Institutions – Although the pace of change can be cumbersome, it is the institutions which have the power and the responsibility to drive the direction of travel. They now need the data to identify the KPIs that will effectively support positive action on environmental measures, and the permission to incentivise all aviation actors, whether through taxation, subsidies, emissions trading schemes or other measures. Taking a lead tackling these issues are the European Commission, its agencies and partnerships. They are leading on key topics like the environment, ATM Data Service Provider (ADSP), the European ATM Master Plan (being updated with all stakeholders in 2024) and deployment of SESAR solutions. The European Green Deal aims to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and the Single European Sky is one of the hot topics, with reform intended to cut up to 10% of air transport emissions by 2035.
The challenges ahead
In June 2024 we expect to see a AAM vehicle flying over Paris during the Olympic Games (a demonstration by ADP). In the next 15 years, it’s completely feasible that cars could be replaced by small AAM vehicles that sit on the driveway, relieving traffic jams, accidents and alleviating pollution. You just enter your destination, and the vehicle will self-navigate. The timings will depend on public acceptance ... how fast are we prepared to change?
Airspace integration, competing social and economic drivers, are all today the enemies of progress. Not until we completely rework the aviation narrative and have an independent decision-making body will we make progress in delivering a truly integrated air transport solution for the next generation, one that delivers on environmental promises, is operationally efficient and economically viable.
We must merge more and more ATM and airport activities, take a holistic view of the whole, since these are intrinsically connected. Our challenge (airlines, air navigation service providers, airports, Egis ... everyone!) is to reach out to each other and agree a roadmap to change our key performance indicators (KPIs) to favour environmental sustainability.
At Egis, things are changing, we are setting out our red lines: coal, new oil fields, unconventional fossil fuels, as well as any project emitting more than 1 GtCO2e over its lifetime. We recognize the societal, economic, and structural benefits that aviation brings. Flying is not the enemy, emissions are! So, aviation must change as well – and it must do this faster than it has ever done before.
- europa.eu, total greenhouse gas emissions trends
- iata.org, air passenger market analysis
- aci-europe.org, airports press release
- eurocontrol.int, eurocontrol forecast, autumn 2023
- easa.europa.eu, Single European Sky, Plan of the European Green Deal
- oliverwyman.com, Post-Covid trends in Airline Economic Analysis 2022-2023
- europa.eu, Sustainable Transport: rules to boost intelligent transport systems for safer and more efficient transport agreed