As the Minister of State said, this Bill introduces institutional reform of the Irish aviation regulatory system and will allow for the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, to merge its own aviation and safety regulatory functions with the economic and consumer protection roles of the Commission for Aviation Regulation, CAR, to create a single regulator. It also separates the for-profit air navigation service activities of the IAA into a stand-alone commercial semi-State body.
As currently structured, the Irish Aviation Authority has a dual mandate, providing both commercial air traffic control services and regulation of airline security and safety, including regulating airlines and IAA's air traffic control services. This system is largely an outlier in a European and international context and there is a growing legal obligation to separate these two powers. With the separation of commercial and non-commercial services, it is important that the Department provides sufficient resources for this transition at the offset. Given the effects of the pandemic, many avenues of income for the industry have been removed.
When this Bill was presented at committee in 2019, little concern was given at the time to the viability of the new commercial State agency, with aviation then being a growing and profitable industry. The figures given at the time stated that of the €200 million in revenue per year seen by the air traffic control provider, €122 million came from en route services. These were transatlantic flights which did not land in Ireland. Figures released by the IAA in November stated that en route traffic was down by 61.9%. If enough resources are not given at the offset to allow for the change of bodies, it will be very difficult to scale up to what is needed.
The aviation sector faces severe challenges with the impact of Covid-19 and the climate crisis. According to the IAA, Ireland’s air traffic declined by 63.3% in 2020. Dublin Airport's traffic declined by 74.5%, Cork Airport's by 79.4%, and Shannon Airport's by 68%. European airports have been hardest hit by the global crisis in the aviation industry brought on by Covid-19.
I want to speak about consumer protection. As part of this merger, the IAA will now take on the consumer protection obligations of the Commission for Aviation Regulation. The commission, which will now fall under the IAA, deals with consumer complaints regarding airline refunds and has stated that it has received more than 4,000 complaints regarding flight refunds from all airlines since the beginning of the pandemic. Under 80% of these have been resolved.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation told the transport committee in 2009 that it had a total of 17 staff and highlighted its need to increase capacity, particularly on the consumer protection front. The British consumer magazine Which? Travel recently analysed more than 12,000 complaints about flight refunds and found that four out of ten of these were about Ryanair. Eight out of ten customers were dissatisfied with Ryanair's refund services after their flights were cancelled last year.
Under EU directives, flight refunds for cancelled flights should be paid back within a week. An incredible amount of flights were cancelled last year, leaving customers fighting with airlines to receive refunds to which they were entitled. A third of the respondents to the UK magazine survey waited more than three months for their refund. None of them received their refund during the legal timeframe.
The Irish Travel Agents Association, ITAA, highlighted the issue earlier this week, detailing the trouble travel agents continue to have while trying to access flight refunds. ITAA member travel agents are currently owed approximately €20 million in refunds from one company alone, which is Ryanair.
Under the EU directive, refunds are only available when the flight has been cancelled, not when the customers choose not to travel. Under the continuing restrictions, many individuals have correctly chosen to be responsible and cancel their flights for non-essential travel. Many of these ghost flights have gone ahead, however, with few or no passengers on board. The refusal to cancel these flights means customers have been unable to access refunds. With the current state of the pandemic and the restrictions on non-essential travel, these flights should not be taking place.
In terms of environmental issues, airport charges will be a particular concern for the IAA going forward. In 2019, the Commission for Aviation Regulation ruled that the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, should cut the levy it charges airlines to an average of €7.87 per passenger over the period from 2020 to 2024. The body has already committed to reviewing these cuts in light of Covid-19.
Part 9 of this Bill amends the regulation of airport charges in Ireland and outlines the lead objective in determining airport charges to the interests of the customer. The briefing note for this Bill states that all other objectives cascade down from this lead objective. The policies of the Government on climate change are listed 11th out of 12 on the list in terms of consumer considerations. I really want to ask why climate change is 11th out of 12? Why is it not high up, if not top, of the list? I do not understand that. I ask the Minister of State to address it.
Airports across the world are dropping airline and passenger charges in an effort to attract airlines and passengers back. We need to support the recovery of the aviation industry. Post Covid, however, we will need greater consideration of the environmental cost of the aviation strategy, which will see an increase in flight and passenger numbers.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, estimates there were 4.5 billion air passengers globally in 2019, with each year since 2009 breaking a new record until last year. While the knock-on effects of the pandemic will no doubt impact on projections for the aviation industry, the International Air Transport Association had previously predicted a rise to 7.2 billion passengers by 2035.
Under a normal year, it is estimated that aviation consumes 5 million barrels of oil every day, contributing somewhere between 2% to 5% of total global emissions. Calculating its exact impact is complex, as greenhouse gases released at high altitude have different effects than those emitted at ground level. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, had warned that Ireland's aviation emissions were increasing sharply. An economy class return flight from Dublin to New York emits an estimated 0.56 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. As other sectors of the economy were becoming greener, utilising more clean energy, pre-pandemic aviation's proportionate total emissions had been set to rise. Emissions from planes had been rising rapidly, increasing by 32% globally between 2013 and 2018. Gradual improvements in fuel efficiency are welcome but they had been nowhere near enough to address the rapid increase in total passenger numbers that had been ongoing.
In October 2016, 191 nations agreed a UN accord which aims to cut global aviation carbon emissions to 2020 levels by 2035. Another ambitious target of that agreement is for the aviation industry to achieve a 50% carbon emission reduction by 2050 compared with 2005 levels. The industry intends to achieve these things through carbon offsetting in the short-term, the continued development of more efficient aeroplanes, deeper investment in sustainable fuels such as biofuels and through better route efficiency. Offsetting helps, but only partially. A recent study by the European Commission found that 85% of offset projects it had evaluated actually failed to reduce emissions.
If we want to be serious about addressing the climate crisis, cutting our emissions and reaching the targets to which we have committed, then we need to consider climate as a top priority in all aspects of decision-making in the aviation industry and not as an afterthought. I believe it should be top of the list of considerations and not 11th out of 12.
I have huge concerns about the aviation industry right now in terms of jobs and the thousands of families who are in a precarious situation and who are extremely worried, especially in the past month, given that we will not get the recovery in air travel we might have hoped for earlier in this pandemic. They understand the public health situation we are in and that there will not be that early recovery many would have hoped for.
There is a lot of concern that the kind of resilience that has gotten our airline industry this far is coming under increased pressure. It is welcome that the Minister of State has said that if more needs to be done, it will be done but I have to say that the people who have been in contact with me and who work in the aviation industry and in airlines are strongly of the view that more needs to be done now. They are fearful that if more is not done quickly and urgently and on the sort of scale we have seen from other European governments, there will not be the kind of aviation industry we need as an island in terms of our connectivity and of its strategic importance. I am sure the Minister of State agrees with me on.
One must look at the state aid that has been given to airlines and authorised by the European Commission since the pandemic started. The figures published by the European Commission on state aid approval as of 23 December 2020 show the following: in Austria, Austria Airlines was given €150 million; in Belgium, Brussels Airlines was given €290 million; in Croatia, Croatia Airlines was given €12 million; in Denmark, SAS was given €583 million; in Estonia, Nordica was given €30 million; in Finland, Finnair was given €286 million; in France, Corsair International was given €137 million and Air France was given €7 billion; in Germany, Condor was given €550 million and Lufthansa was given €9 billion; in Greece, Aegean Airlines was given €120 million; in Italy, Alitalia was given €199 million; in Latvia, airBaltic was given €250 million; in Poland, LOT Polish airlines was given €650 million; in Portugal, SATA Air Açores was given €133 million and TAP Air Portugal was given €1.2 billion; in Romania, Blue Air was given €62 million; and in Sweden, SAS was given €486 million. When almost €25 billion in state aid had been given to airlines and approved by the EU Commission, the corresponding figure for Ireland was zero.
It is worth noting that none of these 16 countries are islands and none of them have the kind of reliance on aviation that we have as an island country and economy. The lack of direct support given in Ireland, in comparison with other European countries is glaring and of huge concern to everyone who is working in the industry. The commitment the Government gave was that if more needs to be done, it will be done. Now is the time to deliver on that commitment.