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AAPA Leaders Discuss SAF Usage, Aviation Safety and Growth

The Asia Pacific Airlines Association seeks greater dialogue with governments on regulatory initiatives.

Airline leaders at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) 67th Assembly of Presidents, which took place in Singapore this week, expressed their satisfaction with the strong revival of air travel in the Asia Pacific region. During the Assembly, Asian airline leaders united in their goals and passed several resolutions focusing on sustainability, aviation safety, and regulatory impact.

A view of Singapore.
Singapore © FCMedia/FlightChic

Setting SAF Target of 5% by 2030

AAPA leaders have pledged to work together towards a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) utilization target of 5% by 2030. They recognize that SAF production is still in its early stages worldwide. A sufficient supply of SAF is crucial to effectively reduce CO2 emissions in international aviation.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the air transport sector remains fully committed to addressing its carbon footprint in the long run. It aims to achieve the ambitious goal of achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. To make this goal a reality, AAPA urges governments, fuel producers, airports, and other industry organizations to join forces globally. Their objective is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and support the aviation industry’s journey towards carbon neutrality.

A Harmonized Framework for SAF Supply

“A harmonized global framework that enables the cost-effective supply of SAF is crucial for aviation to attain its net zero emissions goal by 2050,” said Mr. Subhas Menon, Director General of AAPA. “By highlighting their collective ambition on SAF usage, AAPA airlines are indicating the level of SAF demand as an impetus for governments to consider the necessary support initiatives for SAF supply and for fuel producers to plan SAF production capacity to meet the needs of the industry. At the same time, a globally agreed accounting framework for airlines to account for their emission reductions, based on a chain of custody approach, should be in place. This will ensure that the relevant carbon abatement credits are properly attributed in the SAF supply chain from feedstock to production and use.”

Conventional fuel suppliers will play a crucial role in this initiative. Menon said, “SAF is both essential and desirable for the aviation industry. In addition, SAF production represents a new growth and income opportunity for States as well as for waste, agriculture, and fuel industries globally. Government policy to encourage the production and take-up of SAF everywhere in the world is needed to transition to an environmentally sustainable international aviation industry.”

Work With ICAO and Regulators to Improve Aviation Safety

The Assembly of Presidents recently passed a resolution on aviation safety. In this resolution, they have committed to collaborating with ICAO and relevant national regulators to develop initiatives in the Asia Pacific region actively. These initiatives aim to enhance safety culture in areas facing terrain, visibility, and situational weather challenges. Some of these initiatives may involve training and education programs, reporting and investigation procedures, knowledge-sharing platforms, and implementing advanced technologies.

Governments Should Avoid Unilateral Measures

The Assembly passed a third resolution, urging governments to avoid imposing unilateral measures on airlines that would disproportionately affect their operations and overall connectivity. Governments should carefully consider the economic impact of introducing regulations that would increase the operational and cost burden on airlines, especially in situations that are beyond their control. It is important to balance enforcing passenger and slot-related regulations and ensuring practicality, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability, especially during and immediately after major disruptions to transportation systems.

Menon said, “The pandemic highlighted the complex and interdependent nature of the global aviation system. Sustainability, aviation safety, and cross-border travel require globally harmonized rule-making and coordination. Unilateral or inwardly focused regulatory measures can result in unintended consequences in the wider aviation system beyond a state’s borders. AAPA looks forward to working with governments and other industry stakeholders to accelerate the adequate and cost-effective supply of sustainable aviation fuels and reinforce the industry’s excellent safety, sustainability, and service standards.”

Sustainability Core to AAPA Agenda As Airlines Eye Growth

Sustainability is the core focus of discussions amongst airline leaders at the 67th Assembly of Presidents of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) in Singapore this week.

“Achieving sustainability goals is critical to the future success of the international air transport sector and its continuing role as an agent for social and economic development,” said Mr. Subhas Menon, AAPA Director General. “Extreme weather events and record temperatures in 2023 nearing global warming thresholds set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are a clarion call for all industry players, especially governments and fuel suppliers, to step up efforts on sustainability, and to ensure that aviation is able to achieve its net zero carbon emissions goal by 2050.”

Celebrating a Strong Recovery

AAPA members are optimistic about the future of air travel and expect a full recovery next year. Despite the challenging economic climate caused by inflation and aggressive monetary policies, AAPA member carriers are experiencing a strong rebound in air travel. In September 2023, international air passenger numbers in the Asia Pacific region reached 79% of pre-pandemic levels. This is slightly behind other regions due to delayed border reopenings. However, the demand for air travel remains strong. Airlines saw a 171% increase in international air passenger traffic in the first nine months of 2023 compared to 2022.

Supply chain constraints caused a slower increase in seat capacity measured in available seat kilometers. ASK grew by 130% in the first nine months of 2023. However, load factors have already returned to pre-pandemic levels. Airfares remain high due to the region’s solid demand for air services.

“China, accounting for a fifth of the region’s international traffic before the pandemic, is still at only 54% of 2019 levels in September 2023.  Excluding China, the recovery of the region stands at a markedly higher 87%.  Nevertheless, the return of Chinese travelers in full force will kick off another significant wave of growth for the region and global tourism,” observed Mr. Menon, adding that “the demand for air travel is resilient in spite of the challenges in the global economy, as there is a distinct shift in spending from goods to services, including on air travel.”

Air Cargo Demand Expected to Improve

The air cargo demand in the region has decreased by 6% in the nine months leading up to September 2023, compared to 2022. This is largely due to the shift to services and the reopening of sea lanes for maritime trade. However, experts predict that the demand for air cargo will improve as the global economy stabilizes, manufacturing output strengthens, and inventories accumulated in previous years are reduced.

Mr. Menon added: “Cargo is a bellwether for the global economy while passenger demand reflects consumer spending habits which have shifted to services and tourism-related sectors instead of manufacturing.  The robust growth in air travel demand will keep the industry on track to full recovery.”

“The AAPA Assembly of Presidents looks forward to discussing how airlines can contribute to the full restoration of global connectivity as well as seamless, safe, and secure air transportation as they embrace the region’s potential to return to sustainable air transport growth in 2024.”

About the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA)

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) is a trade association representing scheduled international airlines in the Asia Pacific region. The organization’s permanent secretariat is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with additional offices in Brussels and Washington, D.C. The airlines from this region account for more than one-third of global passenger and air cargo traffic. As a result, they have a significant impact on the continued progress of the global aviation industry.

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