Evidence suggests that air travel accounts for around 5% of the world’s carbon emissions, a figure which could reach 50% in future decades, if it continues to grow at current rates. This places a huge responsibility on airlines to cut their carbon emissions but is a movement that will be lead by passengers, who have the authority to make environmentally responsible choices on the distance they travel and the airline they choose.
According to flight comparison site, Liligo, budget airlines produce around 30% fewer carbon emissions, per passenger, than traditional airlines, operating with business and first class seats. It was estimated that an Easy Jet flight from London to Zurich has a carbon footprint of 277kg per couple, compared with 688kg with Aer Lingus. The main reasons for the drop in emissions are down to newer aircrafts and higher loads.
Upgrading their fleets with the latest technology and fuel efficient aircrafts, Easy Jet planes are around 3.5 years old on average, and Liligo discovered that British Airways planes are around three years older than the average Ryan Air aircraft.
In order to maximise passenger numbers, no-frills airlines pack in as many passengers per flight as possible; whereas Airbus A319 takes around 124 seats, the average Easy Jet flight has 156. Budget airlines also tend to fly with fuller capacities. According to a study carried out by the Association of European Airlines in 2009, British Airways’ flights were 73% full, whereas EasyJet averaged 86% capacity and Ryanair 82%.
Profit-wise, no-frills models also seem to be working best; low-cost carriers are booming, whilst the competition is facing falling numbers; Easy Jet reported a 9.3 % rise in passenger traffic last December, Ryan Air’s bookings increased by 7 million and Wizz saw an increase of 33%, whereas BA carried 4% fewer passengers than 2008 in December and suffered an overall loss of £400m, an impact largely to do with union lead strikes.
Many full-service airlines are now responding to the changing market place, adding more economy seats, cutting luggage allowances and charging for food and drink in an attempt to offer cheaper flights. Passenger decisions over which airline to choose are predominantly price-led and the popularity of budget airlines will almost certainly increase, as passengers feel content that they are also making more environmentally responsible choices.
Image taken from Airliners.net