Low-cost airline Flybe is introducing ‘eco-labelling’ of its fleet’s environmental performance
Low-cost airlines regularly come under attack in the climate change debate, but one operator has decided to address the issue. Flybe (www.flybe.com) has launched the world’s first eco-label for aircraft (www.flybe.com/environment/eco-labels.htm). “It’s designed to help consumers identify which type of aircraft or route is the most sensitive choice for the environment,” says Mike Rutter, Flybe’s Chief Commercial Officer.
When booking online at flybe.com, the label appears after a specific route and time have been selected. It’s designed to look like the energy labels used for household appliances, except that it provides no overall rating. The large letter that appears in the top right of the label is, somewhat confusingly, merely a measure of aircraft noise level, not of the proposed journey’s environmental impact.
“That’s because the new eco-label is more than an energy rating,” explains Alun McIntyre, project director at Entec (www.entecuk.co.uk), the environmental consultancy who helped Flybe develop the label. “Flybe wanted to consider the effects on passenger and local environments as well as the planet, and the three sections of the label reflect that. The top section shows the effects on the areas around airports, the middle section deals with the fuel consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the entire flight, and the lower section is about the passenger environment.”
Although the label is seen by many as a positive move, Friends of the Earth’s aviation campaigner Richard Dyer disagrees, “Aviation is the UK’s fastest growing source of carbon dioxide. Green labels and carbon offsetting will do little to tackle the impact of flying. It remains a highly polluting activity for which there are often greener alternatives, like taking the train.”
To make the grading as accurate as possible, Entec compared Flybe’s aircraft against a full range of aircraft and routes used by all the UK airlines. “For a flight from Birmingham to Jersey, for example, Flybe would score a ‘B’ for CO2 emissions for their Embraer 195 plane, while an airline using the Boeing 737-500 for the same route would score a ‘C’ for CO2 emissions,” explains McIntyre. However, Flybe are currently the only airline using the label, making comparing routes and flights across airlines impossible for passengers.
“We have written to the world’s major airlines, encouraging them to use the scheme, and we have produced a detailed technical booklet on our website that outlines the methodology of creating a label, “says Rutter. “We are cautiously optimistic that it will become an industry standard.”
Published September 2007, Conde Nast Traveller