Flying in the face of green concerns

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The Independent Online

By the end of yesterday's star-studded welcoming party, Gordon Brown was at the helm of the A380, presumably getting used to the concept of captaincy.

Most notable among the absentees at yesterday's backslapping exercise however, though, was the green lobby.

A fully loaded A380, kitted out only with 800 or more economy-class seats, would be the most environmentally gentle aircraft in the skies. The fuel consumption, emissions and noise per passenger per mile would be commendably low. But none of the initial customers for the jet plans an economy-only configuration. Singapore Airlines will kit it out with fewer than 480 seats.

But "Optimum" and "aviation" rarely sit easily together. The A380 sets a flightpath towards more sustainable flying, but if it is to be part of the solution, the politicians must inject some rationality and overturn some of the present absurdities.

On average, one in four seats on scheduled airlines is empty; a tax on every seat, filled or not, would incentivise the airlines to maximise their "load factors".

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