Danny Rogers: Air industry needs a co-ordinated policy

Willie Walsh, the former boss of British Airways and now chief executive of the wider International Airlines Group (IAG), has told me that new European climate-change proposals are 'total madness'.

Danny Rogers: air industry needs a co-ordinated policy

Walsh is instead demanding a co-ordinated, global approach to climate change that would involve the UK’s controversial Air Passenger Duty (APD) being scrapped altogether.

Speaking in Mallorca on Tuesday, before his keynote address to ABTA’s annual Travel Convention, Walsh made the compelling argument that many decisions on aviation were being taken by people without any understanding of business and economics. As a result, British airlines are suffering – as is the UK’s economic growth.

Walsh revealed that IAG would be running a major comms and lobbying campaign to get the regulation of aviation handled on a global scale, rather than on a national or regional level. This is a centrepiece of Walsh’s new role, with support from IAG comms director Julia Simpson and specialist lobbyists.

He was reacting to last week’s announcement by the EU’s commissioner for climate action, Connie Hedegaard, that European airlines would be part of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). She said that such a scheme could create revenue streams for airlines, which has left Walsh incredulous.

‘To suggest that you can increase a business’ costs and, as a result, provide it with a revenue opportunity is madness. It just goes to show how out of touch this European commissioner is. There is no way that this can be presented as anything other than a cost to consumers.’

IAG is also linking up with travel industry body ABTA in a major public-affairs campaign to fight proposed increases to APD. Gordon Brown doubled the rate in 2009, making it the highest aviation tax in the world, and adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of a long-haul holiday for British families. Brown claimed that it was an environmental tax, because it would cut down on unnecessary flights.

But Walsh claims that ‘not a single penny’ of APD goes towards the environment. ‘It is just a revenue-raising exercise, but one that has damaged and continues to damage the UK economy,’ he says.

One tends to support Walsh’s contention that governments are abjectly failing to join up economic policies and environmental initiatives – and that this is writ large in the case of the aviation industry.

The Government has committed to developing a co-ordinated aviation policy by 2013, but IAG’s comms campaign will aim to prove that this is too little and much too late.

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