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Virgin Atlantic And British Airways Face Complaints Over Alleged Misleading Sustainability Claims 

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are currently facing formal complaints regarding accusations that the airlines are misleading the public over their sustainability claims and environmental credentials of aviation. 

This past week, a Virgin Atlantic flight took off and was hailed as the first transatlantic flight to be fully powered by “sustainable jet fuel” from a commercial airliner. The jetfuel in question is made up of mainly cooking oil, and was partially funded by the UK government. 

This flight was emphasized as a “potentially guilt-free way to fly” according to reports, however, scientists and professional environmental groups have some issues with the airline’s claims. 

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Leigh Day, a law firm, and Possible, a climate charity, have both filed formal complaints against Virgin Atlantic and British Airways over their claims about sustainability and reducing emissions during flights. 

“The reality is that technologies for cleaner flight either don’t work, or don’t even exist yet. We think that airlines’ misleading claims about their emissions are unfair on people who want to do the right thing when they travel. It’s time for airlines to start being honest about their sky-high emissions,” senior campaigner at Possible, Alethea Warrington, said.

The complaints were filed under the National Contact point mechanism which is run by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. They disclosed that the airlines are misleading their customers over their claims of reducing carbon emissions.

 Recent research from the Royal Society found that the UK would have to devote half of its farmland or double the total amount of renewable electricity supply in order to meet its goal of net zero flying emissions.

BA’s emissions from jet fuel have consistently increased from 2016 to 2019, despite the airlines claims to be  “driving urgent action towards net-zero emissions [with a] clear roadmap to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

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“For fuels derived from biomass, land is not available to produce crops for biofuels in sufficient quantities to power aviation without causing hugely damaging deforestation, which increase emissions and makes biofuels just as bad for the climate as kerosene, if not worse,” Possible said.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “In 2019, we committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 and, while there is no single solution to this challenge, as part of our BA Better World program, we have a clear roadmap of initiatives to get there.

“We were the first airline to report our carbon footprint more than two decades ago and were the first airline to voluntarily participate in the UK emissions trading scheme.”

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “At Virgin Atlantic, we are committed to achieving net zero 2050 and have set interim targets on our pathway to get there, including 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.

“There are two levers for delivering in-sector carbon reductions in the short to medium term: the fleet we operate and fuel we burn. We already fly one of the youngest and most efficient fleets across the Atlantic. Beyond fleet renewals, SAF presents an immediate opportunity to deliver lifecycle carbon reductions of up to 70% and is something we have been pioneering for over 15 years.”