The USA has “thrown down the gauntlet” when it comes to investments in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and Europe must act in kind, according to the chief executives of Europe’s largest airlines.

Citing the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and its SAF component, A4E used its Aviation Summit in Brussels on 29 March to call for the EU to “seize the opportunity” created by its Net Zero Industry Act “to develop a world leading SAF industry to help airlines reach their target of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050”.

A4E ceos

Left to right: A4E’s Donceel, Ryanair group chief executive Michael O’Leary, Lufthansa Group chief executive Carsten Spohr and EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren

Such moves would enable the EU to “strengthen and secure the competitiveness” of European aviation, some 30 years after the creation of the bloc’s single aviation market, A4E suggests.

“With the mandate coming in 2025 under ReFuel EU, Europe needs a supply of sustainable aviation fuels,” says incoming A4E Chair and IAG chief executive Luis Gallego. “But in order to scale-up production in Europe, industry will require further investment support.

“The opportunity is there, as, with the right policies, 30 SAF plants could be built across Europe over the next eight years, saving seven million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030 and providing thousands of jobs.”

Furthermore, A4E urges the EU to “take decisive action” in other areas to enhance the single aviation market, including through reform of areas including the airport charges directive, EU261 passenger rights and the region’s airspace.

“Airlines are a key contributor to Europe’s economy and enable millions of Europeans to live, work and travel across our continent,” says Laurent Donceel, acting managing director of A4E. “Thirty years after airline deregulation took effect, it’s time for the EU to get a move on and deliver the growth enhancing regulatory framework it has talked about to strengthen European airlines and deliver for consumers.”

A4E is Europe’s largest airline association, counting IAG, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa Group, EasyJet and Ryanair among its members.