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European airlines hit by ‘greenwashing’ complaint

PARIS (AFP) – European airlines have been hit by a consumer complaint filed with the European Union’s (EU) executive arm accusing the 17 companies of greenwashing, the practice of making misleading climate-related claims.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said yesterday the claims made by the airlines breach EU rules on unfair commercial practices.

The BEUC called for a Europe-wide investigation and for airlines to “stop making claims that give consumers the impression that flying is sustainable”.

“We urge authorities to take the matter into their hands and crack down on this greenwashing practice seriously misleading consumers,” BEUC deputy director general Ursula Pachl said in a statement.

“Airlines must stop giving consumers the false impression that they are choosing a sustainable transport mode,” Pachl said.

Greenwashing is when companies use deceptive claims to convince the public that its products or operations are environmentally friendly.

Seventeen European airlines including Lufthansa have been hit with a complaint of making misleading climate-related claims. PHOTO: AFP

The complaint targets Air Baltic, Air Dolomiti, Air France, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Finnair, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, SAS, SWISS, TAP, Volotea, Vueling and Wizz Air.

The BEUC said airlines are misleading consumers by charging them more to contribute to the development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which are “not market-ready” and will only represent a minor share of a plane’s fuel mix once they finally become widely available.

The group also denounced claims that paying extra credits can “offset” or “compensate” for a flight’s CO2 emissions.

An Air France-KLM spokesman said the Franco-Dutch group was “paying increased attention to the precision of these messages” and that it was the world’s biggest buyer of sustainable aviation fuels last year.

Germany’s Lufthansa said it plans to slash its net emissions by half by 2030 compared to 2019 levels and has a “constant dialogue” with customers.