Environmentalists versus airlines

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Virgin Atlantic is making it easier for passengers to donate money to climate-friendly projects, such as tree-planting. Virgin's website has a carbon offsets page, to help calculate the correct donation to make based on one's amount of air travel. And during flights, passengers are encouraged to buy carbon offsets.

Budget Travel has been following this industry-wide trend, reporting on SilverJet's program, Delta's new program, and the efforts of other airlines. (See our story, "On Flier's Remorse.")

Are environmentalists unfairly targeting airlines?

We posed that question to Richard Havers and Chris Tiffney, authors of Airline Confidential: Lifting the Lid on the Airline Industry an exposé on the industry as a whole (not just the environmental angle). Here's what they had to say:

(Richard) I think airlines are a soft target for Governments and others to have a pop at. Big aircraft flying around the place look like they are doing an immense amount of damage, but for the distances they cover and the numbers they carry it is pretty efficient way of transporting people. The fact is that our society has developed in the way that it is and flying is a fact of life. If we are to change it then we have to consider every aspect of the way we live. I'd sooner see people's discretionary car journeys limited. Let's also not forget that vast amounts of our food are flown around the world.

Chris thinks Carbon offsetting will expand - but whether it does any good is a whole different question.

Never forget that someone is making money out of carbon offsetting. Added to which it's playing on our guilt. I've heard that some airlines are getting into the Carbon offsetting game on board. You're sitting in your seat and the guy next door says ,"I'm going to off set my journey." What do you say? "Good for you." Then carry on drinking your gin and tonic with the lemon slice in it that was probably flown from some long way off?

It's a really serious issue but politicians and governments are in danger of opening Pandora's box.

What do you think?

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