Aviation industry can’t ‘pin’ Net Zero on governments

The aviation industry cannot “pin” the move to Net Zero on governments, but can ask them to help “stoke the fire”, says a vice president of Star Alliance.

Richard Carret, nominated vice president of alliance development at the 26-airline group, said aviation can achieve Net Zero by 2050 but said it relies on the public and private sectors working together.

“Everybody is responsible,” he told Abta’s Travel Convention in London. “We don’t want to pin it on government. The solutions are everywhere. Everybody has to be focussed on it.

Carret said governments and the private sector must work together to find solutions, and while the aviation industry shouldn’t “pin it on government”, the public sector can help “stoke the fire”.

And he stressed “the solution has to be global” and that ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow next month, “it’s not just a UK issue” but relies on “concerted global action”.

Carret noted “sustainability is made up of several elements”, adding that “Net Zero is a very visible one, with decarbonisation the most important aspect” but Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and alternative aviation propulsion systems are also important to that goal. “Is Net Zero 2050 achievable? Yes it is.”

He said hitting Net Zero will require “a very heavy investment on the airlines’ side,” but a “very necessary” one.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels will be a priority, he said, stressing the importance of increasing production and availability and noting how it costs four times as much as jet fuel, and its lack of availability at some airports.

“What’s truly important for us is genuine climate action, globally,” said Carret. “It’s in everybody’s interests. We all need to work together and find a common solution.”

Asked if he expects flight shame to grow, he said: “We really do expect a shift to rail or other modes of transport for short-haul, but it may not be the solution for people with more complex travel needs.”

Using the example of connecting flights, he championed the industry’s capability of offering “one travel agent booking, one single ticket” to create flexibility for passengers.

“We are not trying to resist flight shamers,” he said. “We’re working on solutions to support what customers will expect: seamless multi-modal international journeys.”

On business travel, Carret said it is “ultimately accepted” among airlines that there will be “a hit on business travel”.

He said “domestic short-haul will be less affected than international long-haul” but believes “the rebound of leisure travel will offset some of those losses.”

Carret also noted the rise in video calling software but said “relationships are crucial to underpinning business relationships” and that most deals are “initiated or concluded” in person.

“The first deal you lose because your competitor was there in person will make you rethink your business travel needs,” he suggested.

Carret expects business class sections of aircraft to return to higher capacity as travel recovers, but accepted it is not back to pre-pandemic levels.

“We are starting to see unbundled business class fares,” he noted. “Airlines are trying to get the front end filled-up.”

In the meantime, he added: “We are seeing enough demand at the back end to balance off the effects on business class in the near term.”

Carret was speaking to the London Travel Convention remotely from Frankfurt before a trip to Singapore to help establish Star Alliance’s new centre in the country.

He said the move reflected the growth in aviation in Asia, the importance of the industry being “nimble” in different markets and the need to service a 24-hour globally connected world.

“While we are establishing a new centre in Singapore, we will still maintain a presence in Frankfurt,” he said. “But it will be smaller.”

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