PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Air France-KLM AIRF.PA is battling new green taxes on top of the coronavirus crisis – in a test of growing policy tensions between righting Europe’s crippled airlines and delivering on climate goals.
The Franco-Dutch group, sustained by 10.4 billion euros ($12.2 billion) in state-backed loans, faces higher duties in both home markets as well as EU plans to hike airlines’ carbon costs.
The struggle unfolding around Air France-KLM is part of a larger reckoning for carbon-intensive industries as efforts to tackle global warming spawn more taxes and regulation.
While campaigners say those are long overdue, crisis-hit airlines warn their timing and severity will cost thousands more jobs and hurt development of lower-carbon technologies.
New taxes “do not support emissions reductions”, said Air France-KLM Chief Executive Ben Smith in response to proposed increases to French passenger duties.
“In fact it’s counterproductive and would deprive us of finances that could otherwise be invested in environmental projects,” he told an online industry forum this month.
Tensions can only rise as emissions goals are toughened to slow dangerous climate change. The European Union’s executive now wants to cut greenhouse gas output by 55% in the next decade rather than the previous 40%, from a 1990 baseline.
While the pandemic has dampened climate protests led by Extinction Rebellion and Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, their political legacy must be squared with the economic emergency.
French municipal elections saw the ecologist EELV party take Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg in a June 28 “Green Wave”. The next day, President Emmanuel Macron promised to advance 146 proposals from a “citizens’ climate convention”.
Those include an airline duty increase to 30 euros per short-haul economy passenger and 400 euros for long-haul business, from their current 1.50-18 euro range. At 2019 traffic, officials say the sector would pay 4.2 billion euros.
Key members of the government, which underwrote 7 billion euros for Air France, are backing away from the pledge as officials draft legislation in response to the convention.
“It would be grotesque to take back with one hand what we’d given the sector with the other,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told daily Les Echos.
Le Maire and his Dutch counterpart were among nine EU finance ministers who had called for “taxation or similar policies” to curb emissions by raising air fares.
From Jan. 1, the Netherlands is introducing passenger duties worth 220 million euros at pre-crisis traffic. A Greenpeace legal challenge is also demanding steeper emissions cuts in return for KLM’s 3.4 billion-euro aid package.
Airline emissions account for 2.5% of the global total but are set to triple by 2050. Under a U.N.-brokered programme, CORSIA, the industry aims to counter emissions growth from international flights with carbon offsets, whose effects are contested.
Airbus AIR.PA has given itself until 2035 to put a “zero-emission” plane into service, but many are sceptical about that deadline. Synthetic fuels are also too scarce and expensive to offer a near-term solution.
For intra-European flights, airlines would face a higher bill for European carbon credits under plans outlined this month to reduce free permits for the sector.
EU officials have also signalled likely moves to end a tax exemption for jet fuel enshrined in international treaties, a process that could take several years.
Germany, which has pushed ahead with an airline tax increase to fund cheaper rail travel, plans binding minimum quotas for carbon-neutral alternative jet fuel.
Far from giving struggling airlines a break, campaign groups are urging governments to use bailouts to force faster progress.
“Airlines’ reliance on governments strengthens the case for acting to cut their emissions,” said Andrew Murphy of Brussels-based Transport & Environment.
Assuming a slow recovery, research commissioned by the group suggests CORSIA’s market mechanism would price emissions as low as 17 cents per long-haul flight, leaving little incentive to curb greenhouse gases.
ICAO, the U.N. aviation agency that developed the programme, said it “cannot comment on advocacy studies that have not been peer-reviewed.” CORSIA complements a “carbon-neutral growth strategy” agreed among member governments that also draws on technology, operational gains and alternative fuels, it added.
Other emissions-cutting proposals may divide the industry.
Air France-KLM’s Smith called on French ministers to consider a minimum fare instead of taxes, citing the 40-euro minimum recently introduced in Austria. “Let’s discuss that,” he said in a newspaper interview.
While minimum fares can curb overall traffic and emissions without hurting traditional airlines’ profits or jobs, they punish budget carriers and their customers.
“This is another mad idea from a high-fare airline that can only survive with over 10 billion euros of illegal state subsidies,” Ryanair RYA.I said. The low-cost giant is challenging rivals’ EU-approved bailouts in court.
“Ordinary consumers all over Europe have benefited from and will continue to demand low fares, choice and competition,” it said.
However these tensions play out, airlines face a rising tide of carbon costs on top of their current woes.
Maintaining fuel tax exemptions would present a “flagrant inconsistency” with EU climate goals, said Christian Egenhofer of Brussels-based think tank CEPS.
Taxing fuel would be an important step even if rates started low, Egenhofer said. “You know what happens with taxes – they always go up.”
Reporting and photo: Reuters
Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project
Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.
This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.
The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.
In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.
No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.
Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.
As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.
From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.
Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.
Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.
Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services
Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.
Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.
“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.
“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.
Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”
Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.
“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.
To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.
Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.
Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.
For more information, visit www.eleanorapp.com.
Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops
Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.
As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.
Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”
“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”
Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.
All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.
Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at: https://www.emiratesgroupcareers.com/cabin-crew/
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