Aviation emissions are deeply unequal

In many ways, the global aviation industry epitomises the injustice of the climate crisis. Ads for cheap flights idealise a jet-set lifestyle whilst hiding the impact that emissions from aviation are having around the world. Meanwhile, private jet companies seek a new clientele with the promise of luxury, at the cost of wildly inflated emissions.

The richest half of the world population are responsible for 90% of global carbon emissions from aviation. Emissions from private jets flying out of the UK and France, for instance, are higher than those from 20 other European countries combined.

However, even within wealthier countries there is huge inequality when it comes to flying as just 15% of the population who fly most often take 70% of all flights. And then there’s the (growing) problem of private jets. Private jet use has exploded in recent years, especially since the Covid pandemic, with a growing by 75% between 2021 and 2023.

Private jets emit 10 times the carbon emissions per person per flight of commercial planes, and 50 times more than trains. Ultra-wealthy people who fly on the largest private jets produce as much as 20 or even 30 times more emissions than passengers in economy class on standard commercial flights

Bus stop ad for EasyJet shows the outline of a plane above the text "destination zero emissions"

Take part: Ban high carbon ads

Ads for flights – whether cheap or luxury – are fueling the climate crisis. Help us put and end to the promotion of carbon-intensive lifestyles.

Our work

Luton airport ad complaint

Ads from Luton airport seen on the London Tube network in March and April 2024 promoted the airport’s expansion from 18 million to 32 million passengers per year. The ads suggested the expansion will respect “environmental limits” set in the airport’s Green Controlled Growth Framework – but this Framework does not include emissions from flights, which make up more than 80% of the airport’s current climate impacts.

As part of a European-wide week of action against airline advertising in April 2024, Adfree Cities and seven other environmental groups including Badvertising, Adfree Cities, Stay Grounded and Possible reported the ads to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and asked that they suspend the adverts pending investigation.

A billboard poster features a poster showing an aeroplane and the caption "stop adverts fuelling the climate crisis."

‘Sub-vertising’ the Airlines and Ad Agencies

In September 2022, Adfree Cities provided research support to an international arts project led by Brandalism and the Subvertisers International network targeting aviation advertising, drawing attention to nefarious greenwashing practices used to justify dangerous levels of airline and airport expansion, and calling out the ad agencies that continue to normalise air travel.

More than 10 grassroots groups were involved in the campaign, which saw more than 500 ad spaces hacked in clandestine ‘subvertising’ actions in 15 cities across Europe. The campaign also involved community events, with 6-sheet cover ups in 5 Dutch cities engaging members of the public in questioning the role of advertising in our public spaces, and Adblock Bristol’s giant billboard-sized community paint by numbers event.

A billboard shows a spoof ad for Lufthansa
Artwork: Lindsay Grime. Image: Brandalism.
A billboard shows a brain surrounded by planes with the caption "got planes on the brain?"
Artwork: Webster. Image: Brandalism.

Easyjet complaint

In November 2022 we reported EasyJet to the Competition and Markets Authority over a series of ads seen in bus stops in London that promised “zero emission” flights. Disappointingly, the regulator refused to investigate the ads, claiming they were undergoing a review of travel advertising regulation at the time. You can read more about this here.