Wizz Air’s latest campaign tries to use the climate change movement to sell seats

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It’s a simple fact that flying more people in your aircraft lowers your average per passenger carbon emissions. Low Cost Carriers often use this fact to tout their environmental credentials, in the case of Ryanair and Frontier going as far to claim that they are ‘green.’

Another LCC which is using the ‘more passengers per aircraft’ line to its advantage is Wizz Air, which in a recent social media campaign has taken direct aim at legacy airlines with business class cabins.

An online video released on December 5th was accompanied by a tweet calling out British Airways, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines with the hashtags #banbusiness and #banbusinessclass

Wizz Air’s ‘Let’s ban business class’ video starts off with a screen directly telling business class passengers and legacy airlines, ‘we think you are doing great harm to our planet.’  It then shows two timelines.  In one, a young, multi-ethnic group of millennials who Wizz Air says are ‘part of the sharing economy’ pack light, travel cheap and experience a destination.

In another, old white men are shown travelling to the airport in a chaffeur driven car on a traffic jam clogged highway, bringing along suitcases and sitting in an empty business class cabin.

The video also shows a series of press clippings where airlines were deemed to be engaging in environmentally irresponsible practices, such as that of BA ‘flight tankering’ uncovered last month by the BBC’s Panorama Current Affairs TV programme. It also makes reference to Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr’s comments that low cost carriers flying people around for next to nothing are environmentally irresponsible.

The film finishes by announcing that, ‘the age of old school travel is over, just like business class.’

To be credible, Wizz Air needs to go the extra mile.  It doesn’t.

The Wizz Air video is certainly an audacious way for the airline to draw attention to itself.

Essentially Wizz Air is weaponising the climate change movement and trying to have it’s own ‘OK Boomer’ moment, by showing old white guys flying with legacy airlines engaging in so called ‘old school travel’ and accusing them of destroying the planet.

The problem with this approach is that LCCs themselves emit a significant amount of greenhouse gases, with Ryanair being called ‘the new coal’ after it emerged that it is now the tenth biggest polluter in Europe (spots 1-9 are held by coal fired power stations).

And both environmentallists and the media are wise to this, with an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph accusing Ryanair of ‘bare faced cheek from an airline that produces such a staggeringly vast cloud of greenhouse gases’, following its claims to be green.

Wizz Air’s sustainability page is both well produced and detailed, and makes a lot out of the introduction of the A321neo into its fleet.  Yet, if you are going to accuse other airlines of being polluting dinosaurs, you really have to show how you are going the extra mile and beyond the glossy information, Wizz Air doesn’t do that.

Actually, aside from the introduction of newer fuel efficient aircraft, something other airlines are doing as well, Wizz Air’s other environmental initiatives involve things such as paperless cockpits or in-flight magazines printed from recycled paper.  Important in isolation, but small beer in the greater scheme of things.

We couldn’t see any evidence of Wizz Air using voluntary carbon offset schemes, let alone the mandatory carbon offsetting introduced by easyJet.  In fact, for us, easyJet remains the gold standard both in what it’s actually doing when it comes to sustainability, as well as in how it talks about its sustainability programme.

This is something we talk about in more detail in our special flight shaming report, which you can download here for free.

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