Don't make airlines a scapegoat for carbon emissions, travel chief tells US Senate subcommittee
Sam Gilliland, Chairman and CEO of Sabre Holdings, appears before US Senate subcommittee
Mon 18 May 2009 – Sam Gilliland, the Chairman and CEO of Sabre Holdings, the world’s largest travel distribution and technology company, has called on the US Government to immediately address the “bleak” situation facing the travel industry and take action on energy policy, environmental policy, air traffic control modernization and Treasury travel guidelines. Testifying before a US Senate subcommittee, he said the Government should provide incentives for research, development and delivery of alternative fuels. He also said carbon-related revenues raised from commercial aviation should be re-directed back into environmental and efficiency improvements to help the aviation industry “grow rather than flounder”.
Gilliland, who also serves as the Chairman of the Economic Sustainability Subcommittee of the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, said domestic US leisure travel was down almost 5% and average leisure fares down 10%. “This dramatic fall in demand is bad news for the industry, the legions of people who work in it, and both the US and global economies.”
He said that with a dependence on foreign oil and without access to sustainable energy, the travel and tourism industry would continue to be “battered” by volatile fuel prices. “A biofuel industry could be a major generator of employment and wealth for the US and the developing world, but to achieve this, we need a comprehensive US energy policy that calls for viable fuel competition and sustainable energy,” Gilliland told the US Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion.
As airlines “only account for 2-3% of the world’s man-made carbon emissions and have improved fuel efficiency by 110% since 1978” they should not, he said, be made a scapegoat for carbon emissions. He called on the Government to establish policies to reduce greenhouse gases but ensure the burden was “fairly shared across all industries”.
Gilliland said the US NextGen Air Traffic Control system must become ‘NowGen’ in order to achieve “much needed” energy, environmental and customer-service improvements for the nation’s aviation industry. He said the benefits would not only be in significant fuel burn and CO2 emissions reductions but also reduce flight delays and passenger inconvenience, create or save 77,000 jobs and “be transformational for the broader economy”.
He believed recent attention on what the US Treasury deems “luxury” and “excessive” in business travel had prompted US companies to cut back on, and in some cases eliminate, business travel altogether for fear of being criticized. “Meetings, conventions and incentive travel are proven business tools that allow companies to establish valuable relationships, solicit feedback and reward employees,” he said. “Corporations need to feel confident that they can once again hold business meetings and conventions in order to achieve their corporate objectives.”
According to forecasts last week by the Air Transport Association, 14 million fewer passengers (about 150,000 per day) will travel this summer (June to August), compared to the same period in 2008. Approximately 195 million passengers are expected to fly on US airlines, down from 209 million during the summer months of 2008. ATA is projecting that 7% fewer passengers (171 million versus 183 million) will travel domestically, and 6% fewer passengers (24 million versus 26 million) will travel internationally.