Singapore Airlines (SIA) has becoming one of the first Asian carriers to join the growing debate over the aviation industry's impact on the environment.
At SIA's annual parliamentary reception at the House of Commons in London yesterday, general manager of UK and Ireland Marvin Tan told politicians, reporters and industry partners that SIA advocates "an integrated approach to managing the industry's impact on the environment".
"We need to do our bit, but we must also keep the scope of the problem in perspective," Tan says, pointing out the aviation industry's contribution to carbon emissions is only about 2% of the world's total.
He added that in the UK the industry generates 520,000 jobs and contributes ｣11.4 billion ($6 billion) to the gross domestic product.
"At a time when many countries are just waking up to the dangers of climate change, it is all too easy to lose perspective. It is right that the aviation industry must play its part in reducing carbon emissions. But its contribution should be proportionate; and the financial penalties that we and our passengers incur should go towards protecting the environment.
"Punitive taxes serve only to siphon capital away from much needed investment in new, cleaner aviation technology. So I hope and trust that in their understandable zeal to combat global warning, governments will resist temptation to concentrate on easy targets, at the expense of an industry that has served them so well over the years."
Tan says the industry is doing its part to reduce its impact on the environment by introducing more fuel efficient aircraft. For example, SIA's planned replacement of Boeing 747-400s with Airbus A380s on such routes as London-Singapore-Sydney will result in a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency. SIA plans to begin operating A380s between Singapore and Sydney in late 2007 and between Singapore and London Heathrow in early 2008.
"Despite its size the A380 is an environmentally friendly aircraft with new fuel-efficient technology and a noise footprint half that of the Boeing 747. Its deployment also enables us to increase capacity at crowded airports such as Heathrow and satisfy demand, while being 20% more fuel efficient. For us that's important. We can use the A380 to grow capacity in London without needing to increase the number of flights. Once we convert our three daily London flights to A380s we can offer as many seats as it would take four 747s to provide, while moving to new cleaner, quieter technology."
Tan suggests governments can help airlines further reduce emissions by improving traffic management, including more direct flight paths and less queuing with engines idling.
SIA says this is the first time it has publicly commented about the environment and believes the timing was ripe as the debate intensifies in Europe. While Asian as well US and Middle Eastern carriers have so far said little to nothing about the environment, as the debate over the aviation industry's environmental impact heats up in Europe they will no doubt be drawn into the debate.