EasyJet starts UK newspaper campaign to press for a fairer and greener air tax to replace APD
Thu 3 July 2008 – Low-cost airline easyJet is taking out advertisements in the UK national newspapers calling on the UK government to make its air tax greener and also free of subsidies to airlines with transfer passengers. It largely supports plans to replace the current Air Passenger Duty (APD) with a flight-based tax. However, the campaign coincides with an adjudication against the airline by the country’s advertising watchdog over green claims.
The UK government is proposing to replace APD, which is a flat per-passenger tax, with a per-aircraft tax based on the flight distance and would include cargo flights and some private aircraft. The change has met with opposition not just from most airlines but has also led to representations from the United States over its international legality.
However, easyJet argues that APD is “plain wrong” as it “penalises families but excludes private jets and cargo, and charges passengers travelling to Marrakech the same as those travelling to Melbourne. Passengers flying in the newest, cleanest aircraft cause less pollution and should not pay the same as someone flying in an old gas-guzzling aircraft.”
It also accuses other airlines with older, long-haul aircraft flying from hubs of “secretly” lobbying the government to have transfer passengers – who are currently excluded from APD, at an annual cost of £350 million ($700m) says easyJet – also exempted from the new proposed tax.
“Any airline that wants a free ride for its transfer passengers is expecting someone else to subsidise them. This is not right,” said Andy Harrison, easyJet’s Chief Executive. “We have a one-off opportunity to make air tax a greener tax, and to cut subsidies that make the current Air Passenger Duty such a poor tax.
“Air Tax must be a greener tax which encourages airlines to behave more responsibly, not a mechanism to support the weak parts of the airline industry.”
The airline has, though, run into trouble with the UK’s advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), over another green advertising campaign, which drew a complaint. The advertisement, which appeared in the national press, encouraged travellers to choose airlines with new aircraft, higher passenger loads and fewer emissions. It asserted easyJet emitted 22% less CO2, a claim based on a comparison between one of its aircraft and a traditional airline flying the same aircraft type on the same route.
EasyJet responded that the claim was based on emissions savings per passenger and could be justified because its aircraft carried more people on board since it had more seats and higher load factors. It conceded the total fuel used during the journey would be higher but as the extra fuel burnt was considerably less than the number of extra passengers, the emissions per passenger would be considerably lower than traditional carriers.
The airline said the only variable was the weight of the cabin fittings, but it believed the easyJet cabin weighed less than full-service aircraft, therefore offsetting some of the extra weight from the additional passengers. It said it had compared an easyJet aircraft against a specific competitor on a specific route to make a direct comparison using the average fuel burn per block hour, the average block time and average load factor for each airline, and was confident its calculations backed the claim. Further, it believed that it was clear from the body copy of the ad that the claim related to airlines and not aircraft, and readers would understand the difference.
However, the ASA did not agree and upheld the complaint, adjudicating: “We concluded that, because the basis for the claim had not been fully explained, the ad misleadingly implied that easyJet planes were more environmentally efficient than the aircraft used by traditional airlines, whereas we understood that the claim ‘easyJet emits 22% less CO2’ referred to emissions per passenger km, and was based primarily on the fact that they could carry more passengers per plane than traditional airlines. We considered that, without qualification, the claim was likely to mislead.”
Another complaint which challenged a further claim in the advertisement that flying could be 50% cleaner within 10 years was not upheld. EasyJet submitted the ACARE Vision 2020 aviation industry environment targets as support, which aim for 50% cuts in CO2 emissions and 80% cuts in NOx emissions per passenger km from next-generation aircraft by 2020.
The ASA accepted that the ad had made clear the claim referred to “the next generation of aircraft” and that flying “could” be cleaner within 10 years. It also considered the ad had explained in its heading “easyJet’s view” that the airline was expressing its own opinion, and the claim was therefore unlikely to mislead.