Last week a British Airways Boeing 747 beat the record for a subsonic transatlantic crossing, thanks to a supercharged jetstream. With a flight time of 4 hours and 56 minutes it comfortably beat the previous record, arriving well before the scheduled flight time of 6 hours and 55 minutes. For many, Storm Ciara and the other storms which cause such freak weather conditions are clear evidence of climate change.
While this record may highlight a world increasingly prone to climate change, it also highlights how easily we turn to familiar measurements of performance. In this instance, speed is what captured headlines. Fastest. Quickest. Should the headline, instead, have gone to Virgin Atlantic whose A350 on the same route took just one minute more than the British Airways flight but quite possibly broke the record for the lowest carbon footprint of any jet aircraft flying from New York to London. Changing times may call for new measurements of performance.
Airlines today are working on many fronts to improve the environmental footprint of flying and yet consumers who are concerned about the impact of flying are offered in the media little more than a choice to not flying or to off-set the carbon associated with flights they do take. As an industry we could do better at giving consumers information they need to make smart choices about which airline to fly with.
OAG’s latest report, ‘How green is your airline?’ takes a look at the impact that flying shame may – or may not – be having on consumer travel patterns. It also considers some of the many ways that airlines are working to reduce their carbon footprint from bio-fuels to flight paths, and from aircraft types to engines. The difficult part for the industry is that those efforts, however good they are, are failing to keep pace with our ever-increasing appetite to fly. Off-setting can make up the difference but has its critics, as does taxation as a mechanism to either reduce demand of mitigate the consequences.
But what of consumer choice? While ‘flight carbon calculators’ are widely available, most don’t differentiate between one airline and another, or one aircraft and another. What if consumers were more easily able to choose to fly only on the most environmentally efficient aircraft? What if they actively chose the flight operated with an A350 rather than an B747? Do they have the information today to make that choice?