Consumers believe more airlines are taking the threat of climate change seriously, but they still want to see them doing more to tackle it.
An independent survey of over 1,000 adults in the UK, released by the consultancy Good Business, suggests that the majority of consumers remain unconvinced of the airline sector’s commitment to operating more responsible – 60% of consumers do not think that the airline industry takes the environmental impact of flying seriously.
And consumers expect them to act, with 37% believing that airlines are responsible for addressing the environmental impact of flying, ahead of government (20%) and aircraft makers (19%).
Giles Gibbons, CEO and founder of Good Business, said: “Climate change must be the top priority for this sector, and airlines need to show real commitment and innovation in tackling this challenge. We only have to look at the auto industry, where a failure to take climate change seriously has left many carmakers struggling to sell large, gas-guzzling cars, to see the importance of adapting to the times if businesses want the best chance of success in the future.”
The airline that consumers believe is working the hardest to address social and environmental issues is Virgin. It is also the company that 53% of consumers believe is doing more than any other airline to minimise the environmental impact of flying.
Paul Charles, Director of Communications at Virgin Atlantic, stressed the company’s ongoing commitment in spite of the recession: "The economic climate may be the most challenging ever but it's vital that we stick to our social and environmental responsibilities - especially when it comes to being fuel efficient."
Whilst Virgin is the airline named by consumers as the top performer on the environment, followed by BA (which 24% cite as working hardest on its environmental impacts), not all airlines are doing so well in consumers’ eyes.
In particular, it is the budget airlines that are failing to impress - easyJet, Flybe and Ryanair come bottom when consumers are asked how much effort they think airlines are making to tackle social and environmental issues, and to reduce the environmental impact of flying. The perception of these airlines as laggards on addressing these issues suggests that they have a long way to go in convincing consumers of their commitment to values as well as value.
Nearly 50% of consumers do not think that offsetting is the solution to the environmental challenges facing airlines. Only 8% see carbon offsets as an effective way of addressing the problem of climate change, and 39% think it is purely a gesture.
With both environmental concerns and the recession at play, the reasons for people to reduce their flying are stacking up. Indeed, 33% of those surveyed claim they will be flying less over the coming year, providing airlines with a real challenge to encourage consumers on board.
It’s not all bad news, though. Bucking a downward trend in consumer confidence in recent months, our survey finds that consumers currently have a more positive perception of the overall behaviour of leading brands now than at any point over the past quarter.
Even companies in those sectors worst hit by the recession are starting to see consumer confidence in them return, with approval ratings for Ford and HSBC up 11% and 8% respectively compared with the previous month. This shift suggests that business is starting to regain consumer trust after months of decline.
Other key facts from the survey:
• 40% of consumers think that the airline industry takes the environmental impact of flying seriously.
• 81% think that after a certain age of period of service a plane should be grounded.
• 11% of consumers have offset a flight in the past.
• 8% see carbon offsetting as an effective way of addressing climate change.
• In the coming year, 34% are likely to choose the carrier with the cheapest flights, and 33% of consumers are likely to fly less.
• 38% of consumers support the third runway at Heathrow.
• 32% oppose the expansion of Britain’s aviation capacity.
• In the absence of any other way of tacking the environmental impact of flying, 52% of consumers would be willing to fly less often, and 8% would choose to pay more to fly each time
Ultra-efficient wind turbine under development