Ryanair group chief executive Michael O’Leary has hit out at the European Union’s reforms of its Single European Sky initiative, branding them as “useless”.

Speaking during the Airlines for Europe (A4E) Aviation Summit in Brussels on 20 March, O’Leary said that from a Ryanair perspective, “SES 2 will be as useless as SES 1.

“It’s like putting lipstick on a pig,” he says.

Ryanair chief executive

Source: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

O’Leary believes current reforms will make no difference

O’Leary describes the first phase of SES as “totemic of European failure”, adding that the new SES phase “will deliver nothing”.

Rather, O’Leary says, A4E – which counts Europe’s largest airline groups as its members – wants “urgent airspace reform, protection of overflights, delivery of more direct routings, and improved technology across European ANSPs”.

Such actions would “deliver far more than SES 2, in my humble opinion”, O’Leary says.

Speaking during the same press briefing, Lufthansa Group chief executive Carsten Spohr cited the “stupid way we have to fly our aircraft” thanks to Europe’s current airspace system, saying the negative impact was not restricted to emissions.

“The impact of the missing Single European Sky, 10% roughly [in terms of emissions, according to some estimates], is not the only impact,” Spohr says. “It also has the impact in terms of creditability.

“How can I convince my passengers to pay extra for the reduced environmental impact of their flights, [while] at the same time the industry wastes 10% of CO2 by not getting its act together on Single European Sky?”

Speaking on a later panel at the A4E event, Rachel Smit, a cabinet member for Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean, acknowledged that the SES reforms – which are still subject to a vote later in the coming days – only represent “baby steps”, with a group of “negative member states” having argued against more integration of Europe’s airspace, often on national security grounds.

“Member states do not have the same sense of urgency,” she says of the airline sector’s request for more airspace integration. “It’s sad but true – what we’ve achieved is a baby step.

“Maybe the situation needs to get worse before member states open their eyes to the fact that we should have been more ambitious,” she adds.