Senior Emirates exec slams 'archaic' air traffic rules

Gary Chapman says gov'ts wrong to demonise industry over environmental concerns
Gary Chapman, Emirates Group president of group services and dnata.
By Courtney Trenwith
Mon 06 May 2013 12:48 PM

A senior Emirates Group executive has lashed out at governments worldwide over what he says are “archaic” air traffic rules that cause up to 10 percent of fuel to be wasted.

Gary Chapman, Emirates Group president of group services and dnata, said governments were wrong to “demonise” the air travel industry over environmental concerns while they contributed to higher CO2 emissions through inefficient air traffic control systems.

“The politics of demonising the aviation industry about fuel burn, I think is way over the top,” Chapman, who is responsible for setting the Dubai-based airline’s jet fuel surcharge, said during a panel discussion at the Arabian Hotels Investment Conference (AHIC).

“In reality the improvements have been phenomenal in terms of CO2 emissions and the productivity and improvements that have been made over the years, investment in technology, new aircraft, [and] improved fuel burn.

“The shame of it all in the aviation industry is that the biggest issue out there that isn’t being addressed is the over flying and the air traffic control issues which result in wasted fuel burn and environmental impact, and that’s in the hands of the governments and they are not ceasing the initiative on it.

“So they can stand there and talk about taxation and the interests of the environment, which go nowhere near dealing with it, but they have the power within their grasp to improve that by 5-10 percent if they could get out of the archaic air traffic control systems that they operate today.”

Many governments charge airlines an environmental tax relating to their green house gas emissions, which are inevitably passed onto passengers through ticket pricing or fuel surcharges.

Numerous airlines, including large carriers British Airways, Qantas, Malaysian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, now charge a fuel surcharge worth more than $500 per return long-haul journey.

Emirates, one of the largest airlines, increased its fuel surcharge in February.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said there was an opportunity to improve the industry’s environmental footprint but it required cooperation with governments to make processes more efficient.

Airports and airlines were making “significant inroads” towards making air travel more environmentally friendly, he said.

Last month, Dubai International Airport, the second busiest in the world, experienced a world record 208 passengers per aircraft movement.

“So the most fuel efficient airliners operating through Dubai are carrying a much higher density of traffic per movement. Now that’s got to be good news for the environment and there’s plenty of other examples,” Griffiths said.

“We are one of the industries where airliners unfortunately have to take with them the entire fuel that they consume for the entire journey, so that has to be carried; that’s a huge scientific challenge.

“But [it’s] quite remarkable how the environmental footprint of global aviation has changed enormously.”

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