8 November 2022: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published results from a survey of 500 European business leaders. Using air transport to do business across borders, these business leaders confirmed the critical nature of air transport to their business success:
• 89% believed that being close to an airport with global connections gives them a competitive advantage
• 84% could not imagine doing business without access to air transport networks
• 82% thought their business could not survive without connectivity to global supply chains via air transport
Some 61% of business leaders surveyed rely on aviation for global connectivity—either exclusively (35%) or in combination with intra-Europe travel (26%). The remainder (39%) primarily use intra-European networks. Reflecting this, 55% reported that their offices are purposefully located within an hour of a major hub airport.
“The message from these business leaders is clear and unequivocal: air transport is critical to their business success. As European governments plot the way forward amid today’s economic and geopolitical challenges, businesses will be relying on policies that support effective links both within the Continent and to Europe’s global trading partners,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
With 93% reporting positive feelings towards Europe’s air transport network, a wide range of views on areas for improvement was expressed. When asked to rank their priorities the following areas were included:
• Reducing costs (42%)
• Improving/upgrading airport infrastructure (37%)
• Improving links between public transport and air networks (35%)
• Reducing delays (35%)
• Decarbonization (33%)
“The cost, quality and sustainability of air transport are important for European business. These expectations have been underlined in IATA’s longstanding calls on governments to support greater efficiency in air transport. Implementing the Single European Sky will reduce delays. Effective economic regulation of airports will keep costs under control and ensure adequate investments. And meaningful government incentives to expand the production capacity of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are critical to the industry’s commitment to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050,” said Walsh.
Business leaders surveyed showed confidence in aviation’s decarbonization efforts:
• 86% were aware of aviation’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050
• 74% were confident that air transport would meet its commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050
• 85% said their businesses use air transport confidently while managing their carbon footprint
The business leaders surveyed believe that the priority for aviation’s decarbonization should be on finding technical solutions for people to continue to fly sustainably. Using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) was the most-preferred solution (40%) followed by hydrogen (25%). The least popular solutions were pricing carbon into the cost of travel (13%), reducing flying (12%) and encouraging the use of rail (9%).
“There is confidence in the business community that air transport will decarbonize. Business leaders strongly favour the technical solutions of SAF and potentially hydrogen over blunt policy measures to increase costs, control demand or divert usage to rail. That aligns with the industry’s view that SAF is the priority. We need policy incentives to increase production capacity in Europe that would also bring prices down,” said Walsh.
Air or Rail?
While 82% of business leaders surveyed stated that air connectivity is more important than rail connectivity, a choice of efficient modes of transport is important for their business activities. They reported that the rail network is an adequate alternative for business travel (71%), and 64% said that they would use rail more often for business travel if the costs were lower.
“While four in five the business leaders surveyed identified air transport as being more important than rail, they rely on both forms of transport. It is also clear that they do not want to be forced into choosing one over the other. Europe will be best served with cost-efficient and sustainable choices for all forms of transport. That’s an important message for all policymakers that is coming directly from Europe’s business community,” said Walsh.