NerdWallet: If you want to be a more climate-friendly traveler, tough it out on the budget airlines—here’s why

by | Oct 24, 2023 | Stock Market

This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.  As someone who cares about my environmental impact and spending as little money as possible, life is full of fraught decisions. Should I buy organic milk even though it’s twice as expensive? Or choose an electric car for $40,000 rather than a friend’s run-down Corolla for $3,000?

Should I make eye contact with the person on the street raising money to fight climate change or awkwardly pretend to be on a phone call? The point is that my aversion to spending money often means I’m cutting corners environmentally. Yet when it comes to air travel, these preferences aren’t in conflict. In fact, reducing one’s travel carbon footprint can actually mean spending less on airfare. The only downside: It means flying with airlines that pack you in (and treat you) like sardines. Plus: What’s the fastest way to board a plane? United Airlines is going all in on ‘Wilma.’The high cost of legroom Flying burns a lot of fossil fuels — there’s no way around that fact. If the entire commercial aviation industry were a country, it would rank sixth (between Japan and Germany) in total emissions, according to an October 2019 report from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. But not all means of traveling by air have the same impact. More expensive seats, such as premium economy, business class and first class, burn more fuel per passenger than the sardine-like conditions at the back of the plane. How much more? A lot. Flying in first class on a widebody jet creates a carbon footprint nine times larger than flying in economy, according to a report from the World Bank’s Environment and Energy Team, Development Research Group.

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