Stuff the environment, let’s fly to US for $12

I appreciate that Michael O’Leary is skilled at grabbing the headlines and shows little consideration for socially responsible matters such as the environment, but Ryanair boss plans £6 transatlantic flights is a classic.

An interview in  discusses plans to set up a separate business to offer low-cost flights across the Atlantic to secondary airports.  No mention of the environmental impact   – but then the company’s website shows its focus on emissions is entirely based around a strategy of buying new aircraft and statements like:

A Boeing 737-800 ‘next generation’ aircraft with a 70% load factor uses LESS fuel per passenger kilometre than a car with just one occupant.

This argument of being green because modern fleets are cleaner than older planes has been criticised by the  in respect of an easyJet advert.  Claims of “30% fewer emissions per passenger mile than traditional airlines” were found to be misleading and not substantiated.

However, the airline industry seems to have been very effective in lobbying its cause.  Taxation is much lower than for other less-polluting activities and government ministers cite international agreements and various other excuses for not addressing the environmental impact of flights.

The  has an interesting public relations idea, calling for health warnings on advertising for air travel as a way of  communicating with consumers the impact of their behaviour.  Motorists have become aware more of the carbon emissions of their choice of car, so why not extend this to airline passengers too?  IPPR cites:

Climate Care calculates that a return flight to Perth, Australia emits 4500 kilograms of CO2 per person, which is more than the 4400 kilograms of CO2 an average individual in the UK emits in an entire year.

Yes, my own industry (motoring) can do more to help people reduce the environmental impact of their activities, but it seems the airline industry has yet to get the message.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

6 thoughts on “Stuff the environment, let’s fly to US for $12”

  1. It could be that the CO2 savings may look as they are because the older aircraft are actually burning more fuel thus making the newer planes appear more environmentally friendly by comparison.

  2. But easyJet could not substantiate their claims of a 30% reduction owing to new aircraft. To get to this figure, they worked on new aircraft having a greater passenger capacity, so that if you work out a per person CO2 figure, it is 30% lower. That is not actually showing that the planes are this much better. There are also other environmental aspects to consider which the airlines consider – the same is true with cars, newer models are less polluting (in some regards), but there is an environmental impact in producing them. Ditto for aircraft – and what happens to the old ones, I recall a picture of an aircraft graveyard somewhere in the US a while ago.

  3. If they hadn’t tried to dress it up as something else, wouldn’t the fact that yes, it can carry more passengers thus produce less emissions per person overall not a step forward in itself though?

  4. Possibly – but as we know too many marketer/PR types are more interested in the impression than the reality – which they couldn’t prove when made to by ASA. There is so much hubris about environmental claims – rather than wanting to make genuine progress – and that’s not just the airlines. Which politician wants to be the greenest – how many boasts and claims do they make?

  5. The market will – people will rush for cheap flights. But there remains a question over government which regulates and controls cost using taxation. It says one thing on the environment – but seems to encourage more and more flying on the other.

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