EU proposes Belarus transport blacklist
November 25, 2021
The European Commission plans to introduce powers to blacklist transport operators that are found to be involved in or facilitating human trafficking or smuggling into the bloc, as a row with Belarus over illegal migration continues. The proposals, published on 23 November, would allow the EU to adopt targeted measures against transport operators of any mode of transport that are found to be involved in these activities. Measures would need to be "appropriate and proportionate", says the Commission, but can include the prevention of any further expansion or the limitation of current transport operations, the suspension of licences or authorisations granted under EU law, and the suspension of the right to overfly or operate within the European bloc. The Commission says the measures are part of a "united response to state-sponsored instrumentalisation of people at the EU's external border with Belarus". Earlier this month Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney was quoted by Reuters as saying that contracts under which aircraft leased to Belavia would "essentially be cut" once new measures against Belarus were introduced. "Those planes will either have to be returned or, I presume, legal action will be taken," he added. Coveney had previously been quoted as saying that sanctions were more likely to be aimed at preventing Belavia from leasing aircraft in the future, rather than impacting on existing contracts. Data shows that AerCap has two Boeing 737s and three Embraer 195-E2s on lease to Belavia. One of the 737s and the E2's are currently in storage. SMBC Aviation Capital has one 737NG on lease to Belavia. Nordic Aviation Capital has four E170's and three E195's placed with the Belarusian flag carrier. Air Lease Corporation has one in-service 737-800 and one stored Max 8 with Belavia, and a further four Max 8's on order that are destined to be placed with the carrier. A source has contacted the lessors with exposure to Belavia regarding their plans for the aircraft placed with the carrier. NAC declined to comment. A leasing source says that it would be logical for those with exposure to the airline to be looking at contingency options for the aircraft. Patrick Honnebier, professor of international aviation financing and leasing laws and counsel at Rep Law Aviation, tells that if existing lease agreements needed to be cancelled it would be "extremely grave" for Irish lessors. "The lessors will not easily be able to repossess. For the sake of argumentation, assuming that they will be able to repossess successfully abroad, Belarus –ie, the local authorities – will be hostile. So no co-operation in regard to de-registration of the aircraft," he says. "Thus, the 'Irish' lessors are not just damaged because they are losing an existing customer which currently duly pays its lease payments and other bills on time. The ground time and connected expenses may also be excessive," Honnebier adds. On 27 October, in a response to reports that AerCap was seeking to move three E2's it has with Belavia to Air Astana, the Kazakhstan carrier told: "Belavia and their lessor had been looking for temporary parking of some aircraft and approached Air Astana because of expertise on the aircraft. Air Astana is not taking these aircraft into its own fleet. Air Astana understands that Belavia is now pursuing other arrangements for the parking of these aircraft."

​SpiceJet reactivates Max fleet
November 25, 2021
SpiceJet has resumed Boeing 737 Max operations, three months after the jet was cleared to fly again by India's aviation regulator. The Indian low-cost carrier said in a 24 November Twitter post that it had reinstated the Max on its Delhi-Gwalior route. SpiceJet disclosed earlier this month that it had reached a settlement with Boeing, under which the manufacturer "agreed to provide certain accommodations and settle the outstanding claims" related to the grounding of the Max. India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on 26 August overturned an earlier order which had prevented the Max from operating to and from the country's airports in the wake of two fatal accidents involving the aircraft. SpiceJet has 13 leased Max 8s in its fleet and an additional 155 Max jets on order from Boeing. Fleets data shows that the order includes 123 Max 8's and 20 Max 10's. For the remaining 12 aircraft on order, the variant is unspecified.

​Airfares will rise under zero-emission agenda: IATA chief
November 24, 2021
IATA general director Willie Walsh is in "no doubt" that commercial flight ticket prices will increase as the aviation sector seeks to become more environmentally friendly and that travel demand will decline as a consequence. Walsh noted during a panel discussion at Eurocontrol's Aviation Sustainability Summit on 22 November that investments required to meet the air transport sector's target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050 would be in the trillion- rather billion-dollar range. "Will it increase the cost of flying? There is absolutely no doubt with that, prices will have to go up. Whatever way you look at it, the industry has got to face a cost challenge and ultimately that will be passed on to the consumer. Will it have an impact on the number of people flying? It has to, because there are lots of people who are price sensitive and they will be discouraged from flying as a result of that. When we looked at the challenge we recognised that we must face it, it's existential." William Todts, executive director of campaign group Transport & Environment, who participated in the panel discussion, suggested that public pressure, especially from young people, had been a central reason that European airlines adopted environmental protection as a priority and committed to emission-reduction targets in recent years. Walsh rejects the notion that airlines are facing pressure primarily from young people. He says: "The research we have done [shows] it is every age group. Young people are not necessarily who are most challenging about this, everybody is. And that's what we have got to recognise. This is not being done because some young people have mobilised and challenged not just the airline industry, but every industry. This is being done because people right across the world are challenging industries to decarbonise." He notes that while European airlines took a leading role in acknowledging the climate effects of air transport, environmental protection has become a priority for the sector as a whole as "airlines right across the world are conscious of the challenge". However, Walsh accepts Todt's argument that aviation is under particular pressure because aircraft emissions are set to increase in coming years despite the sector's climate-protection commitments. "You are one of the only industries in the economy that is consistently increasing its emissions," Todt says. "That is why you are going to be in the spotlight even more in coming years because the car industry, the drug industry, the electricity industry... are all on a path toward decarbonisation faster than [aviation]. "You have a plan. But the plan is not going to cut emissions in the next 10 years or not in a significant manner. That's what you should focus on. Forget about the PR, forget about the perception." Walsh acknowledges: "Our industry is in the spotlight because our emissions will increase, and we need to be honest about that. But I think our industry is more honest about the problem we face. It will be difficult to decarbonise the airline industry, but working together we can do it over time." The IATA chief concedes that aviation will have "significant challenge in the short to medium term" until sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supply has been ramped up to a substantial level. SAF will be the most effective tool to put the sector on a more environmentally friendly footing, he says. "Longer term, I genuinely believe that technology will provide a solution to us." Fellow panellist and Lufthansa chief customer officer Christina Foerster also thinks that SAF will be the primary emission-reduction tool in the interim term, in addition to fleet replacement and fuel-burn enhancement efforts on existing aircraft. Foerster says pressure on the German carrier to improve its environmental performance comes in particular from corporate and cargo customers. She suggests the airline group supports establishment of ambitious environmental targets in European and is not opposed to the idea of a carbon-emission tax in principle. But she adds such a tax should replace rather than be in addition to existing aviation infrastructure fees and charges. Lufthansa is concerned that additional European environmental regulation and charges will lead to commercial disadvantages versus competitors based outside the region and could prompt passengers to choose long-haul flights via non-EU hubs. Foerster says that SAF blending mandates, as planned by the EU, will add two- or three-digit amounts to ticket prices and suggests that premiums will rise further as aviation moves from current biofuel-based solutions to synthetic SAF. While SAF prices currently are five to eight times higher than for fossil-based kerosene, Foerster estimates that the price for power-to-liquid SAF could be 15 times higher. "If you put that on a long-haul flight, that is really a considerable sum. I think especially private travellers and some business travellers would transfer in Istanbul and in the Gulf region," she says. Lack of production volume is the main obstacle in adopting SAF and main reason for its "excessive" price today, Wash notes. He cites as an example a recent demonstration flight by Etihad Airways from London and Abu Dhabi for which the carrier wanted to use 50% blended SAF, but was able to source only 38% due to lack of availability. "The industry will buy sustainable fuel when sustainable fuels are available. We recognise that is part of the solution of the challenge… The sooner we get sustainable fuel at scale, financially the better," he says. Even with increased production, Walsh believes it is "inevitable" that SAF prices will stay higher than for conventional fossil-based kerosene, and that the cost difference will translate to higher fares. "How big a premium, I don't know. But I think it [SAF] will be at a premium to kerosene and will be for some time before we get to levels of production that we want to get to," he says. Walsh calls on European policymakers to create incentives to scale up SAF production and measures to de-risk investment in such facilities, rather than impose additional regulations aimed at reduce emissions. He argues that US policymakers have adopted a "much more pragmatic approach" than their EU counterparts. "We can learn a lot of lessons if we look at them [USA]," he says. "I don't think Europe is pragmatic."


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