Greenpeace activists in Southwark are campaigning for any airline bailouts during COVID-19 to put the climate first.
Roxana Nucu said Greenpeace and fellow environmental charity Possible are calling for any state support to stipulate that workers must be protected – with no pay cuts or lay-offs – and be ordered to cut emissions rather than just relying on carbon offsetting.
Greenpeace wants airlines to introduce measures such as the frequent flyer levy so that those who fly the most pay the most.
Nucu said: “In Peckham, the fewer planes going overhead and the cleaner air is a good reminder of how much more peaceful and pleasant the world could be if we reduce the amount we fly.
“Personally, in the last couple of months, due to the reduction in pollution, my asthma has got much better and I’ve also noticed how I can now see the London landmarks which makes for a lovely view.
“However, a return to ‘business as usual’ could wipe out hopes of this way of living in a matter of weeks.
“Virgin Atlantic owner Richard Branson is worth £4.2 billion – and yet he’s asking the government for £500 million, and his staff to take unpaid leave.
“A few weeks ago, EasyJet distributed £174 million to shareholders, and is now also asking staff to take unpaid leave.
“What’s more, aviation is virtually the only sector which refuses to reduce its overall emissions, and its plans for continuing growth jeopardise the UK’s ability to meet our climate commitments.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told the News: “Virgin Atlantic has long been a sustainability leader in the aviation sector and we remain committed to becoming net zero by 2050.
“The airline was the first ever to fly using sustainable aviation fuel in 2008. Since then Virgin Atlantic has invested over $17billion on more efficient twin engine aircraft.
“Each of these new aircraft is on average 30 per cent more fuel efficient than the four engine aircraft they replaced.
This investment alongside improving operations has led to an eighteen per cent improvement in fuel efficiency and a 20 per cent reduction in total aircraft emissions since 2007.
“Virgin Atlantic launched a partnership with sustainable fuel tech company LanzaTech in 2012 and after years of research and development, flew the first ever commercial flight using their waste based sustainable aviation fuel in 2018.
“The onset of COVID-19 has led to unprecedented pressure on the aviation industry.
“However this pause in our operations does allow us to evaluate how we emerge from this pandemic and we are fully committed to becoming even more sustainable in our future recovery.”