Air Nostrum, the Spanish regional market leader airline, organised the «Forum on Sustainable Regional Aviation» together with the European Regions Airline Association (ERA). A dozen Spanish and European experts met yesterday in Valencia, where the airline is based. They discussed the challenge of decarbonisation of regional aviation and the different proposals put forward by the sector.

Carlos Bertomeu, President of Air Nostrum, remarked that although aviation «is a small part of the problem», society perceives the industry as a key contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

«The relative effort required of us as a sector is not proportional to our share of the problem, but while we are at it, we are going to make that a big part of the solution», he assured.

The executive said he was opposed to policies banning short-haul flights, which have been proposed more than once in Spain. According to him, banning by law flights between points separated by a distance of less than 500 kilometres would not bring additional benefits in terms of emissions reduction.

For Bartomeu, such a measure would harm the Madrid-Barajas hub and benefit European competitors that could connect Spanish cities directly to other points on the continent. In his opinion, when disruptive technologies become widely available in the industry, the transformation will start with small aircraft. «That role must be played by regional aviation», he said.

For Montserrat Barriga, ERA General Director, the above-mentioned possible measures on regional routes should be studied «on a case-by-case basis». She also mentioned that all other impacts involved should be taken into account.

She explained that routes of less than 500 kilometres account for 34% of all intra-European routes. According to the official, banning them would generate savings of 3% to 5% of the sector’s emissions, but would take away options for 50% of passengers.

The need to develop the SAF market

The panellists shared the view on the need to incentivise and prioritise the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). They agreed that it is the most viable alternative in the short term to reach the targets set by the European Commission. However, they also stressed that its price is still three to six times higher than that of kerosene.

Flor Díaz, Head of the European Commission’s Aviation Policy Unit, explained that the debate on replacing traditional fuels with more environmentally friendly alternatives is well advanced in Brussels and that this «demonstrates the commitment» of the institution.

In addition, she stressed that the production of SAF represents an opportunity for the entire EU, as it is a market that needs to be developed in order to reduce costs. In her opinion, increasing investment, promoting the union of the industry and removing barriers to competition will be «more effective in the long run». This would be a counterpoint to the policy of reducing the tax burden on sustainable fuel producers currently being pursued by the United States.

In March, Air Nostrum signed an agreement with energy company Cepsa to develop sustainable fuels from circular raw materials and other sources, such as hydrogen. They also agreed to work on the electrification of the airline’s ground vehicles.

See also: Iberia: corporate customers to access emissions offsetting programs

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