Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Easyjet: hero or villain?

Easyjet has broken ranks with the remainder of the airline industry and supported the Government's proposals to replace Airport Passenger Duty with a per flight charge. The current system is levied on individual passengers and flight distance. The new system will be levied per flight and will be based on take-off weight.

Of course, this campaign is completely self-serving- Easyjet happens to have a modern fleet and its business model means that it generally flies with a full plane and to short haul destinations- but should it be ignored on that basis? Actually no, the effect of Easyjet's public stance is to shine a light on the irresponsibility of airlines that have aging fleets and have a heavier impact on the environment. Other airlines are busy lobbying for all sorts of loopholes such as transfer passengers being exempt. Their environmental stance should be out in the open and Easyjet will ensure that this is the case.

I am afraid though that hailing Easyjet as environmental heroes (as they almost seem to hail themselves) is rather like praising a cad for not being a crook. It's very amusing to see an Easyjet booking form on the page that announces their campaign. Beyond that, it is slightly less amusing to see Easyjet's adopted environmental slogan. Easyjet: high efficiency=lower emissions=low fares. Lower emissions than what exactly? Not flying? I don't think so. And surely the lower fares just encourage more emissions?

There is congruence of sound business and environmental virtue which allows Easyjet to laud its credentials. It milks it for all it is worth. So yes, Easyjet is more enlightened than its competitors. It reduces the negative impact of its business on the environment. Its business though is getting as many people onto to planes as possible. That has a negative impact on the environment, notwithstanding voluntary carbon offsetting, whether you like it or not.

Well done Easyjet for being the best. Bad luck that it's in a weak race. Just like low fat food can still be quite fattening, lower emissions still means polluting. Easyjet needs to be clearer on that to its passengers to avoid any confusion.

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