Silverjet Meets Its Derrie-Air

When Silverjet launched in October 2006, we thought this heralded two exciting developments; one, that an airline could put sustainability at the heart of its offering, and two, the emergence of a new consumer trend, eco-luxury. The all business-class carrier, Silverjet, was the first airline to become carbon neutral. While several airlines and (online) travel […]

It was about a week after Silverjet went bust that I came across a website for Derrie-Air, which claims to be the world’s only carbon neutral airline, “so you don’t have to choose between living the high-life and saving the planet”. Then I realised it was a joke (the name should have given it away). But actually, this statement isn’t so far from the truth; there are huge opportunities for business to make more sustainable lifestyles appealing to consumers who will not compromise on luxury. There’s no question that eco-luxury is here to stay.

What’s interesting about Silverjet’s collapse is the support given to the airline by their competitors. And perhaps this is the future for ensuring more sustainable air travel; industry led change through collaboration. It’s already happening in the FMCG industry, where a number of big brands are forming a coalition to address sustainability issues in their supply chains, pressing for a unified regulatory framework and buy-in from contractors.

The Derrie-Air website could also inadvertently offer insight on the future of air travel. The spoof airline claims “the more you weigh, the more you’ll pay”. And while it is unlikely that airlines will start charging passengers based on their weight (although this would give the dreaded bikini diet new impetus), the idea of charging for hold luggage has already taken off. Stripping down on weight means reduced fuel consumption, with positive implications for both carbon emissions and cost.

We may already be entering a new era of collaboration for the airline industry, with Boeing and Airbus agreeing to work together to reduce the impact of air traffic on the environment. But only when aircraft manufacturers, airline carriers, aviation authorities and passengers to work together with civil society organisations to collectively reduce the environmental impact of air travel will the debate move beyond reductionist rhetoric.

Derrie-Air

Contributed by Clownfish

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