Easyjet’s new domestic routes fly in the face of environmental spin

EasyJet launched 12 new domestic routes in the UK this month with one - Birmingham to Newquay - less than 200 miles. Green activists have decried the new services, most of which are viable by train.

This stands in contrast to a recent move in France to ban some flights of under 2.5 hours where a rail alternative exists - though there is an exemption for connecting flights. Spain is considering a similar move, while in Germany Deutsche Bahn announced new direct rail services to cities across the country from Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub in an attempt to shift passengers from plane to rail.

Easyjet claims to be “committed to reducing carbon emissions and efficient flying” and that “if you choose to fly with us [easyJet], you’re making a more environmentally conscious choice.” Yet, this latest move makes a laughing stock of the company’s already contested claims to fly green. 

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Domestic flights have long been a symbol of how our economic system incentivises our own destruction. Companies like easyJet claim to take sustainability seriously, but their announcement of 12 new domestic routes shows they will not prioritise our planet’s health over their profits until they are forced to do so by law.”

This comes after a study published last month showed that the carbon offsetting schemes used by the likes of easyJet lack credibility. It found it difficult to justify promises of carbon neutrality and guilt-free flying as the systems used to measure offsetting’s impact are so flawed. 

Andrew Murphy, aviation director at T&E, said: “We cannot rely on airlines’ fluffy public promises. You can’t promote climate neutrality on the one hand, and then offer pointless short-distance flights with the other.”

An easyJet spokesperson said the company is supporting the development of “radical new technologies to achieve zero-emission flying in the future, which we are committed to transitioning to as soon as they are available.” T&E has warned, however, that this vague commitment will come to nothing without legislation.

Murphy said: “Next month the EU will unveil its Fit for 55 package. This is a major opportunity to make airlines put their money where their mouths are. This means ending tax benefits for fuel, taxing emissions on all flights entering and leaving Europe, and mandating the use of clean fuels.”

Clean fuels, such as e-kerosene, received a boost this month as a study confirmed they can reduce the impact of non-CO2 emissions which account for a major - but often overlooked - share of aviation’s climate impact.