British low-cost carrier easyJet announced Tuesday that it would immediately begin offsetting the carbon footprint from each and every flight. It's among the first major airlines to make that step at a time when environmental concerns are in the travel industry spotlight. easyJet marked the occasion with Flight #EJU5841, a flight from Berlin (TXL) to Vienna (VIE) Tuesday morning – and the first for which easyJet will purchase carbon offsets. The airline underscored the importance of its move in a beautiful announcement.
“We believe flying is important – the opportunity to go abroad, to spend time with family and friends, to do business face-to-face and experience other cultures. But we have to balance this with the effect we know it’s having on the planet,” the airline said in its announcement. “Becoming the world’s first major airline to offset carbon emissions from the fuel used for all flights is just one more step on our journey.”
This comes just weeks after British Airways announced it would begin offsetting the carbon impact of its domestic – but not international flights – in 2020. And this is no small matter. While it's not well-known in the U.S., easyJet is Europe's fifth-largest airline. It carries nearly 90 million passengers a year, according to airline data, with more than 1,500 flights every day.
What is a Carbon Offset?
Let’s start with the basics. Anything that you do that burns or uses energy releases carbon emissions. It spans from simple things like heating your house, driving, or flying on a plane, to more complicated processes like the production and distribution of any consumer good you buy. Add it all up, and you’ve got your own personal carbon footprint. And a carbon offset is exactly what it sounds like: a way to balance out the emissions you create. You can purchase carbon offsets, donate to environmental charities, or plant trees to help minimize your impact on the environment. easyJet says it will buy carbon offsets through highly rated companies to plant trees, prevent deforestation, invest in renewable energy production, and work in developing countries to reduce carbon emissions. And the carrier says it won't raise the price of tickets to compensate. The airline also says it's supporting the development of hybrid and electric planes while limiting plastic waste inside its cabins.
Why It Matters
This is a big, bold move. While British Airways made some waves by committing to offset the carbon impact of its domestic flights, that was ultimately a small fraction of its flights. easyJet just went much, much bigger. In the era of Greta Thunberg, flight shaming, and global warming, the environment has taken its rightful place as prime consideration in travelers' lives. As a contributor to carbon emissions, airlines are starting to realize that they need to do more – they can't afford not to. Consumers vote with their wallets.
Travel is critical. It makes us happier, better-informed, and well-rounded people. As easyJet rightly says, it brings us to our families and our work. The key is finding a balance between the importance of travel and indisputable fact that it does take a toll on the environment. That's why Thrifty Traveler has committed to offsetting the carbon impact of each and every flight our team takes. And that's why we're so excited to see easyJet make a big move.
Kudos to easyJet. While other airlines have made big strides to protect the environment, this is undoubtedly the biggest step yet. And once again, we're betting it won't be the last airline to do so.