Airline boss warns trading scheme would put EU carriers at 'commercial disadvantage'

Germany's Lufthansa is threatening to shift operations wholesale out of the European Union to Zurich should the European Commission go ahead with plans to reduce aviation's greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon trading regime.

Lufthansa chief executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber last week talked publicly about the possibility of relocating hub operations to Switzerland, which is currently outside the scheme remit, saying: "Should the European Union go ahead with its plan we would have to think about relocating."


In our forecast for 2007, Flight International predicted Europe would face a battle in persuading airlines to pay for carbon dioxide emissions


Read the Airline Business analysis of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme and its effect on aviation 


Or read a previous article by Aimée Turner on how the scheme will create a new critical load factor benchmark  favouring operators with high seat densities

The EC issued a legislative proposal last year suggesting a cap on CO2 emissions for all aircraft arriving or departing from EU airports from 2012, while allowing aircraft operators to buy and sell pollution credits on the existing EU carbon market.

Lufthansa says: "We have no concrete plans, but the idea of relocating is an indication of what could happen if the scheme is only applied to flights landing and departing from EU countries. If Lufthansa was to fly from Zurich to Hong Kong, for example, there would be no carbon trading.

"There is, however, nothing new in Lufthansa's position on emission trading. We are not against it per se, but there are so many other ways manufacturers, carriers and air traffic management could, with the help of politicians, achieve a reduction in emissions other than introducing this bureaucratic scheme."

It adds: "This scheme is not a global solution and would put European carriers at an extreme commercial disadvantage. We want to match ecological and economic sense with common sense."

A senior EC source, however, says the scheme could easily be extended to non-EU Switzerland through agreements on the current basis of close regulatory ties, and pointed out that travelling further to non-EU hubs hardly makes good environmental sense.

An EC impact assessment on the scheme’s likely economic effect said that switching to non-EU hubs - as well as being “by no means straightforward or inexpensive”, meant that the potential to maximise revenues from EU-based clients would be forgone taking into account the size of the EU economy.

Source: Flight International