A private jet executive has dismissed criticism that his industry is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, saying pets are polluting as much, if not more, than demand for luxury transport is skyrocketing.
Patrick Hansen, managing director of Luxembourg-based Luxaviation, told the FT Business of Luxury Summit in Monaco that one of his company’s clients produces around 2.1 tonnes of CO₂ per year, roughly the same amount as three cats – before a spokesperson corrected behind the scenes that he was talking about three dogs .
The industry was aware of the urgency to limit its carbon footprint but the data must “be put into perspective”, Hansen said during a roundtable on Tuesday. He added that the private flights were “not going away, because they were doing a time service” to the wealthy.
Hansen later said he was referring to data published in a book by Mike Berners-Lee, a British scholar, called “How Bad are Bananas”. It indicates that a cat kept as a pet is responsible for 310 kg of carbon emissions per year, and a dog around 700 kg.
Berners-Lee said in an email that he was “surprised and disappointed to hear data from my book being used to defend false green claims made by Luxaviation.” He questioned the 2.1 tonne figure provided by Hansen, saying it seemed “suspiciously low” and “must be for very short flights and very small aircraft”.
“The simple reality is that emissions from luxury private jets are many times higher than from standard commercial flights. Nor is it reasonable to claim that climate damage can be repaired by so-called ‘offset’ “, he added. “Luxury private jets are a huge carbon indulgence.”
Private jet companies have enjoyed booming demand since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, when the ultra-wealthy sought to avoid crowds and restrictions. Despite the lifting of all travel restrictions, the trend is set to continue as big spenders seek more personalized and luxurious travel experiences, according to industry experts. Global demand for private jets has grown more than 14% since before the pandemic, industry says data.
Hansen said “the influx of new customers into the private jet market” last year offset the loss of customers from regions affected by air travel restrictions related to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Meanwhile, climate change activists and policymakers have called for measures to penalize private flights to help curb global warming. Last month, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport sought to ban private jets from flying to and from the Dutch capital after its runway was stormed by climate activists. Tuesday activists at Geneva airport disrupted Europe’s flagship trade show for private jets.
According to an Oxfam 2022 report the carbon footprint of private jets is at least 10 times that of commercial airlines. This means that one percent of the world’s population is responsible for half of the aviation industry’s total emissions, according to the charity. It was supported by a study by Transport & Environment, an EU NGO, which estimated that private jets emit 5 to 14 times more greenhouse gases per passenger than commercial flights.
Hansen said the industry “didn’t want to be ashamed of our children” and was taking steps to offset and limit its emissions.
Some industry experts have suggested that sustainable fuels such as biofuels made from vegetable oil and synthetic fuels could replace traditional carbon-based fuels. Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun fired biofuels in an interviewclaiming that they would “never reach the price of jet fuel”.
Hansen said the availability of biofuels is extremely limited around the world, so the airline industry cannot rely exclusively on low-emission options.
“Of course, when we flew people to COP26 in Edinburgh, we made sure that those jets were filled exclusively with sustainable fuels,” he said.
According to Hansen, hydrogen and electric engines for aircraft will be a more sustainable alternative to combustion engines in the longer term. In the near future, however, Luxaviation is advising customers against flying private jets over very short distances.
“Sometimes it’s better not to steal. We tell our customers, do not fly from Paris to Lyon.
On Tuesday, in a bid to cut emissions, France banned short-haul domestic flights for which train alternatives already exist, including routes such as Paris to Nantes, Bordeaux and Lyon.