It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to our third Wings of Change Europe event. None of us could have predicted that in 2019, as our Wings of Change event in Berlin ended, that we would not meet again until 2022!

Since 2019 the resilience of our industry has been tested to the limit. But we have survived. It’s said that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ – perhaps that will ultimately prove to be the case for aviation too.

Certainly, the pandemic gave our industry the chance to continue to push forward with important initiatives. The adoption of digital health credentials proved that such systems can work, be trusted by passengers, and accepted across borders. Governments now have no excuses not to work toward a wider vision of digitization, which should eventually improve the customer experience and provide a more secure and efficient travel system.

The biggest development has been in sustainability. In 2021, at the IATA AGM in Boston, the entire aviation industry committed to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, and this was matched last month by governments at ICAO agreeing a historic Long Term Aspirational Goal. The industry and regulators now have a shared target that brings us in line with our responsibilities to keep global warming to less than 1.5C. But it will not be easy. The technological barriers to zero-emissions aircraft are considerable, and though there are exciting possibilities for electric and hydrogen, the reality is that by 2050 approximately 65% of our emissions will need to be mitigated through Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). It is therefore essential that governments encourage SAF production through policies that encourage rapid production at the most efficient cost.

It is positive news that the industry is returning to 2019 levels of demand, but its also clear that we have economic storm clouds that could yet derail recovery. The importance of aviation to the economy is something our survey of European businesses has made clear, with 84% of respondents agreeing that “they cannot imagine doing business without access to air transport,” it should be plain to European politicians and regulators that developing the right policies to encourage European air connectivity is of paramount importance.

Debating and setting out the industry’s needs for enabling regulation is a key objective of Wings of Change, as is providing an opportunity for our industry to gather and exchange ideas. It’s great to be back—and going forward, together.

Rafael Schvartzman, Regional Vice President, Europe, IATA

 

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