The extra CO2 emissions from luxury aviation. Overview of emissions from private aircraft and business class flights in the Netherlands

CO2 emissions from private aircraft are much higher per passenger kilometre than emissions from commercial flights, while these emissions are often not included in policies to reduce aviation emissions. There are calls from politicians to do something about these emissions, but it is unclear exactly how high they are. This study provides an overview of CO2 emissions from private aircraft and business class seats.

In 2019, CO2 emissions of private aircraft flying to and from Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport amounted to 61 kilotons for 14,672 flights. CO2 emissions were lower in 2020 and 2021: 37 kilotons for 10,208 flights and 53 kilotons for 15,235 flights, respectively. In 2022, however, they appear to be above 2019 levels, with CO2 emissions in the first nine months of 2022 amounting to 56 kilotons for 16,147 flights.

The average distance of flights by private aircraft to and from these two airports is 1,180 kilometres. Almost 11% of the flights are shorter than 250 kilometres and almost 35% are shorter than 500 kilometres. The most popular routes are Amsterdam-London, Rotterdam-London, Amsterdam-Paris, Amsterdam-Nice and Amsterdam-Cannes. Most routes also have frequent connections with commercial aircraft and other modes of transport. On the two most popular destinations from Amsterdam (London and Paris), a reduction in CO2 emissions of about 80% could be achieved by switching from private flights to commercial flights. High-speed trains running on this route are virtually CO2 neutral. Depending on the emission factor of electricity, it is possible that the CO2 reductions could increase further.

On commercial flights, business class seats take up a relatively large amount of floor space, especially on long-haul flights in what are known as wide-bodies. Depending on the type of aircraft, an extra 11-28% more passengers could be carried on a KLM aircraft if business class seats were replaced by economy class seats. This would lead to decreases in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption per passenger of 10% to 22%.

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