Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Airlines' Words Curry Little Favour

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Airlines' Words Curry Little Favour

Article excerpt

Carriers are uniting to explain their green activity, but critics are demanding action over rhetoric.

The air travel industry is one of the least likely sectors to be leading the charge on tackling climate change. Its fuel consumption is such that it is accountable for 700m tons of CO2 emissions a year and, far from slimming down, the industry's aims are to grow both passenger numbers and airports.

Yet a new initiative, 'Flying Matters', brings together some of the UK's best-known airlines to demonstrate that the sector is taking the issue seriously (Marketing 23 May).

Inevitably, there have already been grumbles that travel groups have been forced to unite in this way to counter criticism from environmentalists.

Air traffic has been expanding at almost two-and-a-half times quicker than average economic growth rates since 1960 and is the world's fastest-growing source of greenhouse gasses, according to environmental alliance GreenSkies, whose supporters include Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Environmental groups have been lobbying the government to introduce targets for aviation to keep CO2 emissions at a safer level, as well as pressuring the aviation industry to respond. When British Airways relaunched its London to Newquay flights earlier this year, Greenpeace responded with a stinging advertising campaign that accused the airline of 'flying in the face of their stated intent to behave in an environmentally responsible manner'.

Defence mechanism

'Aviation has come under heavy scrutiny in recent years,' says Justin Francis, managing director of online travel agency Responsibletravel.com, which specialises in eco-friendly travel. 'I'm surprised it has taken this long for a collective body to form.'

Led by a consortium of UK travel companies, including Virgin Atlantic, BA and easyJet, as well as UK trade associations including ABTA, 'Flying Matters' has been set up due to 'the lack of a co-ordinated response to attacks the industry is getting', according to the group's director, Michelle di Leo.

However, it appears the initiative will achieve little in practical terms. While campaigns such as 'We're in this together', created by a consortium including B&Q, Barclaycard, British Gas and Marks & Spencer, offer consumers advice and discounts on products intended to help them reduce their CO2 emissions, di Leo admits that her campaign is simply aiming to communicate that air travel is acting responsibly in the face of climate change. 'We want to communicate what the industry is doing in a creative way to cut through the technical terms,' she says. …

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