CO2 emissions of private aviation in Europe

Private flights produce much higher CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre than commercial flights: they are five to 14 times more polluting, according to Transport & Environment. However, these emissions are often not included in policies to reduce aviation emissions. It is therefore important to achieve greater transparency about emissions from private aviation. This report provides a detailed overview of private aviation and associated CO2 emissions for the EU27, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The report lists private flights by distance for 2020, 2021 and 2022, showing that most private flights cover distances of 251-500 kilometres. The CO2 emissions of the ten busiest routes, in addition to the CO2 emissions of the ten busiest routes shorter than 500 and 100 kilometres, are identified per year. The busiest airports are identified per year. A number of the frequently used routes for short-haul flights are well connected by rail, and the report examines the travel time and frequency for these routes. The total number of departing flights and CO2 emissions have been calculated for each country per year.  Finally, the report contains an overview of the top 10 countries in Europe with the most flights and the highest CO2 emissions in 2022.

After publication of the report, it was brought to our attention that one of the airports referenced in the report, Böblingen in Germany, is no longer operational. Some flights that departed from or arrived at Stuttgart were incorrectly assigned to Böblingen in our dataset. This means that the shortest route in Germany in 2022 was not 15 but 22 kilometers (Friedrichshafen-Altenrhein), and Stuttgart-Böblingen is not amongst the most CO2 intensive routes in Europe. Correcting for the fact that Böblingen is closed does not alter the number of flights in Germany or Europe, and the calculated CO2 emissions by private aviation has not changed either. The route between Stuttgart and Böblingen has been removed from the relevant tables in the report.

Flights to and from Böblingen are included in the dataset CE Delft has obtained from Cirium, a leading aviation data and analytics provider, which served as a basis for the calculations. The dataset included all non-commercial flights executed with fixed-wing aircraft and arriving at or departing from European airports. The source of the dataset is publicly available flight-tracking data, for example from ADS-B or MLAT, which contains, amongst others, information on airport of departure, airport of destination and aircraft type. In a few cases, flight tracking data does not report all the information and some data fields are manually entered in the database. This mainly occurs for flights that are not required to file a flight plan with an ANSP. In most cases, these are small turboprops flying short distances. This publicly available data is collected, analysed and categorised by our data expert Cirium, who specialises in extracting business and leisure flights from the available dataset. Cirium has informed us that, because Böblingen airport had not been marked as ‘inactive’ in their reference data, the received positional information of certain flights led to a linear projection to the ground in the close vicinity of the inactive Böblingen airport, to which the flights were appointed. If Böblingen airport would have been marked inactive, these flights would have been assigned to Stuttgart airport (which would mean a round flight in the cases of Stuttgart – Böblingen). Round flights have not been taken into account in the dataset. Because the number of flights is low (18 flights on the Stuttgart-Böblingen route in 2022, out of 58,424 flights departing from German airports), and because they were executed using turboprop aircrafts, the influence on the overall number of flights and CO2 emissions is negligible. Most flights in our database are performed by jets and 95% of emissions are also from jet aircraft.

In Table 147 – Shortest private flight routes of Germany (with 10 or more flights) including the distance, number of flights and CO2 emissions in 2022, an error had been made in the CO2 emissions (tonnes). In a previous version of the report this was 21, but has been changed to 210.

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