Plane pollution: should airlines do more to inform flyers?

15th September 2019
news
release

Friends of the Earth is calling for all airlines to make a flight’s carbon pollution public before a customer books so that an informed choice about how to travel can be made. People overwhelmingly agree with this, as new polling shows.

Almost two thirds of people [1] want to know about a flight’s carbon pollution when they search online, according to new polling released today (13 Sept), but most airlines contacted by Friends of the Earth don’t provide this information [2].

People are thinking much more about their personal actions in connection to climate change so it’s right that companies do better at showing the climate impact of what they sell.

With long-haul flights creating more carbon emissions than that produced by the average person in dozens of countries in an entire year, companies that market to travellers should be clearer about the impact of their services.

Recent research [3] showed even a short return flight from London to Edinburgh pumps out more carbon dioxide (CO2) than the mean annual emissions of a person living in Uganda or Somalia.

But, with airlines advertising to us all the time, and given the attractiveness of travel, isn’t it time we were able to make informed decision about the cost?

Aaron Kiely, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Major train websites show carbon pollution so why can’t airlines do the same? Now the full scale of the climate emergency is known we have decisions to make about how we live our lives, and it’s reasonable to want to make changes based on a full picture – industry should be clearer and more up-front. This is what people also want as this polling shows.

“Giving people more information about the journeys they take can prompt them to make greener choices about their travel – maybe even deciding against that long-haul break for just a few days or look at a train instead to assess the cost, in pounds and carbon, of a journey.”

We can arrive at better decisions about how we spend our time, our money, and how we reconcile the pollution generated, if we have more information – information that all industries should publish.

Notes to editors:

[1] Link to Survation polling. Sample size: 2,017 Fieldwork dates: 2nd-5th September 2019

[2] A telephone and email survey was conducted by Friends of the Earth on 31 July 2019 and 1 August 2018. A search of return journeys from London to New York for one passenger flying economy was carried out to see if at any time during the booking process information was made available about the flight’s carbon output.

[3] Reports of flights emitting as much CO2 as many people do in a year: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/jul/19/carbon-calculator-how-taking-one-flight-emits-as-much-as-many-people-do-in-a-year  and German non-profit Atmos-fair on the climate impact of air travel https://www.atmosfair.de/de/fliegen_und_klima/flugverkehr_und_klima/klimawirkung_flugverkehr