Today easyJet has urged industry and government to work closely together to deliver on the zero-emission technology needed to transform the industry over the coming decade and beyond.
Image courtesy easyJet
Speaking from Toulouse at the Airbus Summit, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren, has insisted that the vision of zero-emission flying can only be brought ever-closer through coordinated action which should focus efforts on some key areas.
First, governments need to support the development of hydrogen supply and infrastructure at airports alongside investments into renewable energy to support the creation of green hydrogen for aviation.
Second, governments will not only need to provide financial incentives to support the development and scaling up of zero-emission technology but also should be ploughing funds raised through aviation taxes into the R&D that is required.
Third, airlines choosing to become early adopters of the new technology should be incentivised through reduced airspace and airport charges and also provided with tax exemptions if they are operating zero-emission aircraft and be prioritised for airport slots.
Finally, easyJet has identified the priority need to make sure the right framework is in place to ensure progress and support for widespread adoption of zero-emission aircraft where these are feasible, such as on short-haul networks. easyJet will be using SAF in the interim, but the company believes the most sustainable long-term solution for a short-haul carrier are zero-emission aircraft.
EasyJet has worked in partnership with Airbus since 2019 to support the development of a hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft by 2035. A crucial part of easyJet’s role has been to work with the manufacturer to provide a commercial airline’s perspective in the development of new zero-emission propulsion technologies for passenger planes.
Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said: “This is an exciting time for the industry where true zero-emission flight is within reach. Hydrogen and electric powered aircraft are already flying, with companies like Airbus committed to scaling the technology for commercial flights and aiming for entry into service in the 2030s. So, we all need to play our role to ensure that the infrastructure is ready for these exciting new aircraft.
“But the industry can’t do it alone. We need governments to help the industry meet ambitious emissions reduction goals by championing financial and regulatory support for green technologies and investments in zero-emission aircraft. We stand ready to work with our partners and the wider industry to help deliver a more sustainable future for the industry.
“The benefits of aviation are unparalleled in terms of connecting people, reuniting friends and family, enabling people to experience different cultures as well as providing for economic prosperity. We’re committed to ensuring a sustainable future of aviation for the benefit of the people and our planet.”
Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus, said: "Pioneering sustainable aerospace is a collective undertaking. It's great to see so many partners and customers join us this week for our first-ever Airbus Summit, as we explore the innovations transforming our industry and federate partners across the sector to make sustainable aerospace a reality.
"I can only welcome easyJet's call for a strong collaboration between industry and governments as we establish our collective path to net-zero. As an early partner on our journey towards hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft, easyJet is playing an active role in shaping the future of flight and we are committed to our continued partnership in this field."
EasyJet is committed to reaching the EU target of net zero emissions by 2050. Making flying more sustainable is something easyJet has long prioritised – from being the only major European carrier carbon offsetting on behalf of all its customers, while proactively working alongside industry leaders, such as Airbus, to champion zero-emission technologies for passenger planes of the future. The airline operates Airbus NEO aircraft, which are 15 per cent more fuel-efficient than the planes they replace, and they continue to join easyJet’s fleet, making it one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient in Europe.
The airline is also constantly striving in its everyday operations to reduce fuel consumption, with single-engine taxiing on departure and arrival and the use of advanced weather information to improve navigation performance. These efforts mean that, since 2000, easyJet has reduced its carbon emissions per passenger kilometre efficiency by more than a third.
Beyond carbon, easyJet is focusing on reducing plastic – in 2020, more than 27 million single-use plastic items were eliminated – as well as reducing waste within its wider operations and the supply chain. For instance, the airline also recently introduced new crew uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles. Forty-five bottles go into each outfit – with the potential to prevent 2.7 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfill or in oceans over the next five years. The garments are fashioned from a high-tech material that is made using renewable energy sources and has a 75% lower carbon footprint than traditional polyester.
So, in addition to the actions easyJet is taking, the following will be needed from governments to make zero-emission flying a reality:
Investing and supporting the development of new technology now:
Support for the development of zero-emission aircraft (ensuring that the current focus on SAF is not at the expense of zero-emission technology)
Revenue raised from aviation taxes should be used to help fund R&D into hydrogen technology
Support for the development of hydrogen supply and infrastructure at airports
Make investments into renewable energy (wind, solar etc.) to support the creation of green hydrogen for aviation
Ensuring there are incentives for the adoption of new technology in the future:
Provide financial incentives to support the development and growth of zero-emission technology, including:
Tax exemptions for zero-emission aircraft
Airspace charges should be modulated to incentivise early adopters of hydrogen powered aircraft
Slot priority – airlines which fly hydrogen powered aircraft should be prioritised for peak slots at primary airports
Cost reduction of airport charges for zero-emission aircraft
It is crucial the European Commission and national governments deliver on objectives for the Single European Sky. Allowing airlines to fly more direct routes could reduce European aviation’s emissions by up to 11%
Offsets should be formally recognised – as an interim step until new technologies are available at scale – this is something all carriers can start doing today
Plus finally, easyJet states that, finally, we need all carriers to take part in decarbonisation, not just those flying short-haul or those flying intra-EEA. This means including long haul flights in policies such as the Emissions Trading System (ETS), the EU's proposed fuel tax and any SAF mandates. We need to have equal treatment and make sure we all play our part in reducing aviation’s impact, especially the long-haul flights responsible for most of the emissions.