Aviation sector in COVID-19 turmoil: lack of EU coordination makes it impossible to recover 

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Transport and Tourism Committee MEPs criticised national solo efforts in COVID-19 crisis that keep grounding European aviation, in a debate with Eurocontrol chief.

The transport MEPs discussed on Wednesday with Director General of Eurocontrol Eamonn Brennan the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the European air traffic network as well as the state of play of the European air traffic management and Eurocontrol's role in the future reform of the Single European Sky.

Six million jobs at risk

MEPs described national solo efforts to manage the crisis as “utter chaos”, “a mess” and “unpredictable” and demand common standards and serious coordination on EU level, which would help to make the unprecedented situation more predictable for the transport sector. This includes the European aviation sector, where the situation keeps deteriorating with 60% loss of air passengers over the last six months and six million jobs at risk.

The Eurocontrol Director General explained that not only airlines, but the full aviation value chain has been affected by the crisis. He added that the winter season outlook is very bleak for the airlines with further reductions of schedules expected. This is bad news for airports, airlines, air navigation service providers as well as ground handlers. The Members highlighted additionally that the support for airlines varies in different member states and a common response is needed to avoid massive layoffs.

The worldwide air traffic has faced 71% reduction paralysing also international trade. Eurocontrol predicts that the European aviation sector will achieve the air traffic level of 2019 only by 2024. “Trade will not continue unless we do something to help. In similar situations, it would be logical for governments to act the same way. The industry is looking for consistency of approach,” said Brennan explaining that many jobs are depending on this. “We need to get our act together, as Europe. European sky needs to be handled as one,” he added referring to the much-anticipated Single European Sky reform.

Support for greening of aviation industry

The MEPs agreed with the Director General that the Single European Sky reform is also an opportunity for greening of aviation. The Committee is looking forward working on the proposal at the earliest opportunity, with Committee chair Karima Delli insisting on receiving the text before December.

The Director General accentuated that the reform can deliver a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and urged the Parliament to support the reform as well as investing in aviation under the Green Deal. “Our objective is not to kill aviation but to reduce CO2 emissions,” he said adding that Europe needs a sustainable aviation industry, as already seen with the flow of goods during the pandemic.

Catch up with the debate here.