Air Lease executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy has criticised European politicians for failing to address air traffic control inefficiency as part of their efforts to limit aviation’s environmental impact.

“You have all these politicians making a lot of noise about airlines polluting the earth, but they can’t get a united skies air traffic control system together in Europe, which would save hundreds and hundreds of gallons of fuel, which would cut down on pollution and help the environment,” Udvar-Hazy told investors during an earnings call on 14 February.

He cites his own experience of flying within Europe. “What really frustrates me and John [Plueger, Air Lease chief executive], because we’re pilots, every time we fly to Europe we’re put in holding patterns on a 300-mile leg between two cities, but we end up flying 500 miles.

“Just in that area alone, there could be significant gains made with very little investment. Instead of ridiculing the airlines, these politicians and leaders should look in their own backyards and see about how incompetent they’ve been at modernising ATC in Europe.”

Airline association IATA said on 12 December that carbon emissions per passenger had declined by more than 50% since 1990, adding: “Much of the improvement has occurred because the industry has achieved an annual fuel-efficiency improvement of 2.3% over the period since 2009, some 0.8 percentage points ahead of target.”

Citing that statistic, Air Lease chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy highlights aviation’s adoption of cleaner technologies, especially new engines which offer improved fuel efficiency.

But he adds: “We do believe that further improvement needs to be made across all engine manufacturers to work out the teething pains associated with this new technology which has impacted dispatch reliability in a negative manner.”