Ryanair, easyJet and Jet2 bosses slam EC on airspace delay

Airline bosses have slammed an EU agreement on reform of European airspace with Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary dismissing the deal as “lipstick on a pig”.

The agreement of a Single European Sky (SES2+) deal early in March followed years of wrangling but was dismissed as “baby steps” by Jet2 chief executive Steve Heapy.

O’Leary told the Airlines for Europe (A4E) Summit in Brussels last week: “The Single European Sky delivered nothing over 20 years when there are real improvements that could be delivered in the next one or two years.

“The EU wrings its hands and says, ‘It’s due to national governments’, and governments say ‘This has to be led by the EU’.”

He suggested: “SES2 will be as useful as SES1, which was lipstick on a pig.”

Heapy said: “I find it staggering that states refuse to support this. We’ve been talking about airspace for 20 years. It needs to get moving. It’s about saving 10%-15% on fuel emissions.

“Baby steps are not enough. The aviation industry is not required to make baby steps.”

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren agreed: “We’ve been talking about airspace reform for years. There is a massive opportunity to improve airspace efficiency. One reason is to reduce carbon emissions, but there is also huge disruption.

“In 2023, we had 10 million minutes of delays – that is 20 years of delays, and it’s something that could be fixed now. We have to hold governments accountable for this waste.”

He noted: “We’ve been having this conversation for years. These air traffic corridors were set up after the Second World War and have not been changed since.”

Lufthansa Group chief executive Carsten Spohr argued: “The failure on a single European sky has an impact on our credibility in aviation. How can we say we’ll cut CO2 when we waste fuel due to air traffic control?

The Lufthansa chief suggested: “You need to have credibility running a listed company. In politics there is a lower level of credibility. To say things which sound nice but then not act on them is much harder for a corporate leader than a politician.”

A4E issued a ‘call for action’ to EU politicians ahead of European elections in June, demanding new urgency on airspace reform.

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