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Letís let airlines know that climate concerns are changing our flying habits

Letís let airlines know that climate concerns are changing our flying habits

Old Dec 13, 19, 10:33 am
  #1  
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Letís let airlines know that climate concerns are changing our flying habits

Fellow Flyertalkers,

Iíve passionately enjoyed flying since I was a child. My mother was an airline employee and many fond memories arose from employee-pass travel. This passion has led me around the world on dozens of airlines (from my trip reports, you could see that this was often in over-the-top premium cabins) and to becoming a private pilot myself. However, after learning about flyingís outsize climate impacts, Iíve reduced my commercial flying greatly (now usually in economy and also skipping trips by seeking out culture and adventures closer to home).

I feel obligated to reduce my own flying, but long term, communicating to airlines about our individual reductions could make an outsize impact.

For instance, Airbus is apparently considering whether or not to invest substantial resources in engineering a hybrid-electric version of their upcoming single-aisle evolution of the A320 family. Convincing airlines and aircraft manufacturers that such an aircraft will offer a demand premium will help dictate aviationís role in the coming decades of climate crisis.

As frequent flyers (or perhaps former frequent flyers), we should take advantage of the particular leverage we have on the decisions of airlines. An airline may offer you a direct channel to executive leadership. Executive contact information is also broadly available on the internet for most major airlines. Alternatively, an airline will prioritize elite-flyer comments through customer relations and sales channels.

Below is a letter that I sent to Alaska Airlines leadership (I was formerly MVP Gold for several years). Feel free to borrow from it freely or consider your own letter, but even a brief note that says,

ďHey, elite loyalty member here, Iíve reduced my flying by about 20% last year because of climate concernsÖĒ
can help make a difference.

Thank you for considering contacting your airline of choice about this!

Letter:
Hello,

Iíve passionately enjoyed flying since I was a child. My parents were airline employee and many fond memories arose from employee-pass travel. This passion has led me around the world on dozens of airlines (often in premium cabins) and to becoming a private pilot myself. However, after learning about flyingís outsize climate impacts, Iíve reduced my commercial flying greatly (now usually in economy and also skipping trips by seeking out adventures closer to home).

This topic has also come up with colleagues (Iím a physician recently out of training; in spite of a positive turn in our financial situation and vacation availability, many of us are seeking to reduce our flying).

For myself, Iíve gone from MVP Gold for several years with Alaska to a general member essentially exclusively due to climate concerns.

This will become a growing issue for airlines given that:
-knowledge of climate issues correlates with income and education (best potential leisure customers)
-young customers are much more concerned about climate impacts
-direct effects of climate change will become more obvious and immediate
-"flight shame" makes pursuing status even with business travel seem gross/silly
-marginal improvements in fossil-fuel powered planes are insufficient to alleviate these concerns

I'm not claiming that Alaska is particularly polluting (I'm aware of Alaskaí early investments in biofuels). But, I do want to point out the major competitive advantage for an airline that that could:
-electrify fleets where feasible (based on battery energy-density this will be possible to at least 500 nm by 2030)
-increase hybrid-electrics, possibly hydrogen or fuel cell technologies
-invest in biofuels and carbon offsets (complicated, not a complete solution)

I recommend that Alaska prioritize this in discussions with aircraft suppliers as well as be open to buying from or investing in startups pursuing these technologies.

Thank you for your consideration,
My real name
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Old Dec 13, 19, 11:59 am
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What a profound waste of time.
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Old Dec 13, 19, 12:44 pm
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Originally Posted by cmcc View Post
What a profound waste of time.
Please elaborate.
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Old Dec 13, 19, 1:59 pm
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Originally Posted by cmcc View Post
What a profound waste of time.
Actually, nevermind. A brief review of your posting history on Flyertalk seems to suggest an overwhelming trend towards haunting this subforum (interesting given your overwhelming disapproval of the premise) and making rather silly claims about how it would be impossible for the world to both expand its wealth and usable energy supply without utterly destroying the planet. In fact, concerted political will could move our global energy supplies to less impactful sources that would benefit humans and the environment greatly. Aviation is simply a special case of this problem that requires fantastic energy-density for long-haul flying.

It's the classic fossil-fuel FUD (fear, uncertainty, division) playbook that distracts people that have a stake in the medium-term health of the planet from carrying out the exciting but challenging work that needs to be undertaken to make the planet more habitable and biodiverse in 2100 than it's current path.

People that still have hope for the planet and a stake should, in my view, go ahead and email some airlines.
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Old Dec 13, 19, 2:28 pm
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Originally Posted by cmcc View Post
What a profound waste of time.
May I invite you to read the forum guidelines, posted in the Welcome to the Carbon Conscious Travel forum thread. An important note for emphasis is our aim, which is to facilitate constructive discussion and a congenial platform for mutual learning.

If you have any questions relating to this, please PM the forum mod team.

Prospero
Moderator: Corbon Conscious Travel forum
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Old Dec 13, 19, 2:53 pm
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I guess I am looking for a more market based solution. I am still confused as to how traveling in Business emits more carbon. Is the concept that my consumer spending incentivizes decreasing density on planes?

As fuel is the number one cost of operating a plane, I guess I assume the airlines have a monetary incentive to reduce fuel usage (and therefore reduce emissions) as much as possible.

I haven't read a lot of stories about airlines feeling any pressure in demand drop due to climate change. But I imagine its in their minds.
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Old Dec 14, 19, 10:41 am
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Originally Posted by bitterproffit View Post
I am still confused as to how traveling in Business emits more carbon. Is the concept that my consumer spending incentivizes decreasing density on planes?
Yes, I think that's true. If the market was solely for business class, than that's what airlines would provide. Conversely, if business demand drops, they can fit a smaller plane on a route with less fuel burn.

Additionally, business is usually (granted not always) a higher margin product. To not spend the extra revenue on business allows a substantial impact and still let's you get where you're going and could be a reasonable compromise depending on your needs.

As fuel is the number one cost of operating a plane, I guess I assume the airlines have a monetary incentive to reduce fuel usage (and therefore reduce emissions) as much as possible.
That's true to some extent, although it's actually not their first expense. Depending on how you attribute HR costs, the fuel is only 20-22% of revenue for typical US airlines. I would argue that the external costs of the carbon pollution aren't currently being adequately assessed so it's about putting some top line pressure on the airlines to invest in more dramatic changes.

I haven't read a lot of stories about airlines feeling any pressure in demand drop due to climate change. But I imagine its in their minds.
I'm the Nordic nations especially and elsewhere in Europe, it's starting to become a major market force, up to 10-15% of what domestic travel would have otherwise been.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...uropean-travel
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Old Dec 14, 19, 10:48 am
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Thanks for the explanations. Some really interesting points. Not sure I buy into all the economics of them, but certainly a lot to think about.
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Old Dec 16, 19, 5:20 am
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If such feel-good letter(s) make anyone actually feeling better, sure, no harm in sending it. Then drive home to your well heated/cooled house and put a nice steak on the pan.
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Old Dec 16, 19, 5:22 am
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Originally Posted by dickerso View Post

I'm the Nordic nations especially and elsewhere in Europe, it's starting to become a major market force, up to 10-15% of what domestic travel would have otherwise been.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...uropean-travel
And still, European (and Nordic - SK, AY, D9, etc) aviation keeps growing. Don't believe everything you read on the internet
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Old Dec 16, 19, 12:13 pm
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Originally Posted by WilcoRoger View Post
Then drive home to your well heated/cooled house and put a nice steak on the pan.
The logical extension of this claim is that it's impossible to decouple wealth and GDP from a linear increase emissions. This is quite obviously fallacious.

I'll head home to a condo heated/warmed by a high-efficiency heat pump that runs almost exclusively on solar/wind. Low-emissions certainly doesn't equate to suffering in my day to day life, and the goal is to extend this to aviation.

And still, European (and Nordic - SK, AY, D9, etc) aviation keeps growing.
I don't doubt that aviation will keep growing. In fact the explosion of aviation growth is what makes this such an important issues. I think we can safely operate from the assumption, the citizens of India and China will be flying at rates approaching the United States today. The critical question for our planet is how. If it's with slightly evolved versions of our current aircraft, the world is screwed.

Living in the present period, with the financial and social resources to influence how aviation develops over the coming decades, is in many ways an enormous privilege and opportunity. Are we going to use it to push for an extra entree-option in the lounge?
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Old Dec 16, 19, 1:02 pm
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As I said, this is just a feel-good issue. If it makes you feel good, just go ahead, absolutely. Given that in developed societies power generation, agriculture and transportation are the source of 85-90% of emissions, concentrating efforts on the 2% that is aviation is, well, a feel-good-about-oneself gesture. One could as well focus on the cement industry, that emits 2-3x more than aviation.

To put things in perspective - the bush fires in Ozzy in the last few weeks emitted 5 times the TOTAL yearly emission of Finland. Add to that the Amazonian fires, the Bornean (Bornese?), Siberian, Congolese-Angolese fires of this year and aviation doesn't even show up on the radar (pun intended)
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Old Dec 16, 19, 8:29 pm
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Letís let airlines know that climate concerns are changing our flying habits
Best way to do this is to stop flying!
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Old Dec 17, 19, 10:48 pm
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Originally Posted by WilcoRoger View Post
One could as well focus on the cement industry, that emits 2-3x more than aviation.
Funny story: I took your advice. Even though I'm far more interested in aviation than cement, I headed over to ConcreteTalk.com and signed up for their forums so as to implement your thoughtful advice.

Sadly, the posters over there with longstanding ties to the cement industry pointed to an example from the blogging world where a young man took a first-class flight from DFW-HKG in first class with carbon emissions that more more than ten times what an Indian citizen lives on for an entire decade. It was so much carbon, that if everyone did that annually, our civilizations carbon emissions would quadruple (if you doubt the math: about 15 tons of carbon for the trip, 7.8 billion people versus current global annual carbon emissions of 36.8 tons). The cement posters asked if the man had a plan to compensate the economic damages of other people directly harmed by climate change due to coastal flooding, diminished fishing yields, or droughts. They asked if the young man had a plan to ameliorate the environmental damages such as mass-extinctions and obliteration of arctic sea ice (about 538 square feet in the case of this DFW-HKG flight).

The cement-mixers assumed that because the young man had used up so much carbon out of our civilizations budget, the young man must have been doing something very important. But then they found out that he had done the trip for no particular reason other than to describe what the bedding felt, like, what the food tasted like, and what the menu was printed on. Hmm, well certainly then the trip must have made him very happy?? Alas, no!

Apparently the service employees on his flight had done an insufficient job at making the young man feel important through a number of micro-aggressions such as not using the young man's name or not prefacing drink orders with, "sir, would you care for..." and the young man tragically did not enjoy his trip very much at all. 😢

He tried to share his thoughts on these great injustices so that the world might become a better place:
https://onemileatatime.com/american-...class-service/

But sadly this just devolved into another internet dumpster fire of counter-attacks from one of the members of the service staff, threats from a purported pilot, etc.
https://onemileatatime.com/flight-at...e-bad-service/
https://onemileatatime.com/american-...ilot-trolling/

The cement-mixers just pointed and laughed at me and said: "why are you harassing us cement makers for creating something that's a crucial part of everyday urban life when aviation's going to count for a larger share of climate emissions than cement in the coming decades (ICAO's own numbers) when most aviation is totally discretionary and even the least self-involved poster-children of flying in the US are cringe-inducing?"

It's almost as though an infinite chain of finger pointing at every different way of slicing up a problem is more a distraction than a meaningful approach... 🤔

...the bush fires in Ozzy...the Amazonian fires, the Bornean (Bornese?), Siberian, Congolese-Angolese fires of this year..
The irony of pointing to a positive reinforcement cycle of climate change (anthropomorphic climate change is leading to increased frequency and severity of major forest fires that leads to even more emissions)... 🙄
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Old Dec 17, 19, 11:57 pm
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Appreciate your writing - seriously. ConcreteTalk - priceless

However, if we stopped aviation tomorrow (reductio ad absurdum) that would delay global warming by a week. Shouldn’t we concentrate on the big emissions? Or given that the game is already lost (if you believe the climate fanatics) shouldn’t we concentrate instead on how to tackle the results of climate change and best adopt to it (horrible dictu - make the most out of it)??

I was just reading in an archeological journal discussing agriculture here, that 4000 years ago the temperature in my country was 2 degrees higher than today. So a bad case scenario would just put us back to pre-European-civilization levels.
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