In fact, the reasons for choosing a private plane are more complex: about five percent of business aviation is medical in nature, with planes returning patients who need to lie flat, require critical care, or require a certain level of air pressure (the number has risen). to 40 percent during the pandemic). Heads of state and other high-profile passengers could fly privately when on an airliner because of the safety risk to other passengers.
The European Business Aviation Association believes that the industry’s focus on celebrities and leisure passengers gives it a bad name, especially given its commitment to Net Zero by 2050, in line with the International Air Transport Association’s goals. “Our industry is used to being flexible, short-term and adaptable,” says Chief Operating Officer Robert Baltus. “For this reason, we can be an incubator for a sustainable future, but government has a key role to play. As an industry, we are responsible for 0.04 percent of global emissions, but let’s talk about how we can reduce those emissions.”
France’s “radical” approach
It is this conversation that President Macron would like to have. Aware that France has the second highest number of private jet departures of any European country (after the UK), its government is trying to limit their use. “I think we need to act to regulate private jets,” his transport minister, Clément Beaune, told Le Parisien in August, citing the changes the public was making to deal with global warming and the energy crisis. He intends to raise the issue at a meeting of EU transport chiefs next month, hoping to spur continent-wide action.
An industry rumor has it that Macron’s government could propose a radical approach that would see private jets powered by fossil fuels banned for shorter trips by 2030. It’s an idea by Leo Murray, who advised Labor on its aviation policy in 2019 and was a member of Grant Schapps’ Net Zero Transport Board in the UK.
“The people who take private jets are the consumers with the most opportunities to do something about climate change,” he says. “We’ve all been told that by 2030 we won’t be able to buy a petrol or diesel car. The most obvious thing to say is: ‘You will no longer be able to land at a UK airport in a fossil-fuelled jet’.” He believes this would spur investment in sustainable aviation, where prototype electric and hydrogen aircraft already exist , but funding from the private sector is needed for further development.
“It’s all a question of funding,” says Matt Finch of Transport & Environment. “These jets exist right now. They’re test jets, but they flew over the UK and France. Now the industry needs to commercialize, and Macron’s potential policies can help with that. Anyone who owns a jet in Monaco needs to look at options.”
I’m looking forward to
Changes in regulations may take longer in the UK, where some high-profile politicians are die-hard fans of private aviation. Earlier this year, Liz Truss, in her former role as Foreign Secretary, flew to Australia on a private plane, on a journey that cost UK taxpayers more than £500,000 and took longer than the same journey on a commercial airline. Last year, Boris Johnson made headlines when he flew to the G7 summit in Cornwall on a private plane to discuss the climate crisis with other world leaders, emitting five times more CO2 than the train.
Just like Jenner’s outing, both politicians’ trips drew a lot of public criticism, and Finch believes it could ultimately be the sinking of the fossil-fuelled private jet. Smart celebrities are already turning to airliners to get around, enhancing their image in the process. Leonardo DiCaprio’s trip to last year’s Cop26 summit aboard a commercial plane, for example, drew a lot of positive publicity.
As Finch says, “Of all the things we can do as a species, flying a private jet is probably the most polluting. If DiCaprio, as one of the most famous actors in the world, can fly commercially, why can’t other private jet users? I think there will be a lot of companies that will start banning them because they don’t want to damage their reputation.”