Just a week after announcing its support for industry wide plans to halve aviation's carbon emissions by 2050, British Airways (BA) has been accused of hypocrisy after launching a new twice-daily business service between London City Airport and New York with just 32 seats.
This morning's inaugural flight was marred by protests from the Plane Stupid lobby and prompted accusations from green groups that the company was already failing to live up to chief executive Willie Walsh's high-profile pledge to the UN last week. He said that the industry would deliver deep cuts in carbon emissions over the coming decades.
"Aviation causes harmful emissions that contribute to climate change - we should be curbing the growth in flying, not laying on new flights," said Friends of the Earth's aviation campaigner Richard Dyer.
He added that the Airbus A318s have been customised to carry 32 passengers rather than 100.
"The luxurious and spacious layout on these planes will mean each passenger is responsible for around three times the emissions from regular flights," he warned.
A spokesman for British Airways rejected the charge of hypocrisy, insisting the company remained fully committed to long-term emission reductions and arguing that the new aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient than older models.
"British Airways is absolutely committed to tackling aviation's impacts on climate change," he said. "Of the scores of commercial aircraft crossing the Atlantic every day between the UK and US, these two purpose-built new A318s will produce the least amount of carbon dioxide. They will produce around 25 per cent of the carbon of a typical Boeing 747 aircraft on the same route."
The news comes as Newham Council this week faced the start of a legal challenge against its decision to allow a 50 per cent increase in flights at London City Airport.
The challenge was launched yesterday by the Fight the Flights residents group and backed by lawyers from Friends of the Earth, who will argue that the council failed to properly consider government plans to cut aviation emissions under the Climate Change Act, or consult with neighbouring boroughs about noise and air pollution impacts when it approved airport expansion back in July.
"The decision to expand London City Airport is ludicrous and should be reversed - to tackle climate change we urgently need to curb flights, not increase them," said Friends of the Earth's head of legal Phil Michaels. "This legal challenge aims to give both the planet and local people a voice in this sort of decision."
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