Emirates’ boss Tim Clark has hit back at those who want to “flight shame” people into avoid flying for environmental reasons.
Clark said today that according to this reasoning, all discretionary spending is immoral because it has a carbon footprint.
“So whether you’re flying a holiday, whether you’re flying to your second home, or whether you’re flying on business, or you find for the multifarious number of reasons that people travel by air today, to judge them as being immoral, one must look at the glass house that you’re throwing stones at,” he told the Telegraph during an interview.
In recent years, environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg are not the only ones to have named and shamed the aviation industry for its environmental impact.
In late October, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was forced to withdraw after it said in-person business meetings involving international flights should be portrayed as an “immoral indulgence or embarrassment” and not as a sign of importance.
Sceptical about the roll out pace of alternative aviation fuels such as electric or hydrogen, the chief executive said the industry shouldn’t make promises it cannot deliver.
“I keep saying this: do not over-promise. Do not start saying to people, we’re going to have electric aeroplanes flying across the Atlantic,” he told the outlet. “This is not going to happen in the next 10 or 15 years.”
Clark is not one to avoid difficult conversations, as earlier this month he said he had a conversation with Prince William – a notorious environmentalist.
“He really does bang the drum in a mature, sensible way,” Clark said. “I said to him: ‘Our problem is that we’re the poster boy for being the bad guys.”
“And he said to me: ‘Tim, what you’ve got to understand is that you are an industry that’s in transition. And your transition is going to take a lot longer than others [compared with] automotive, or power [and] utilities’. And that’s absolutely true.”
Clark is not the only big name in aviation to have hit back against those who flight shame. In 2019, the then chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Alexandre de Juniac lambasted Greta Thunberg for unfairly singling out the industry.
“We are not the only polluter on this planet, and we have taken the subject frontly, directly and massively,” he told science magazine New Scientist, adding that shame flight messages could lead to a world where people are not connected. “Everybody would stay in his own small village, behind his walls. It’s a move backwards, almost a century ago.”