Wizz Air boss says business class should be banned to reduce carbon emissions

Business class cabins should be banned from the world's airlines, according to the boss of one of Europe's fastest growing airlines. 

Jozsef Varadi, CEO of Wizz Air, a Hungarian-based low-cost carrier, has called on the industry to eliminate the premium seats from the skies, claiming that passengers who turn left on boarding account for twice the carbon footprint of those in economy. 

"Business class should be banned," he said. "The industry is guilty of preserving an inefficient and archaic model. A rethink is long overdue, and we call on fellow airlines to commit to a total ban on business class travel for any flight of under five hours."

Wizz Air, which does not offer business or first class on any of its planes, claims to operate with the lowest CO2 emissions per passenger among its competitors and says it expects to reduce this by a further 30 per cent in the next decade.

Varadi has said the airline's new, fuel efficient Airbus A321neo and A321XLR aircraft would be used with a high seat count to further reduce the airline's environmental impact.

A round-trip, economy flight between London and Sydney produces 2.8 tonnes of CO2, while the same trip in business class produces 5.4 tonnes of CO2, according to online CO2 calculators. This is due to the extra space afforded business class passengers. 

Wizz, which operates only short and mid-haul flights, is one of Europe's most successful carriers at just 15 years old and has grown to become a dominant operator across central and eastern Europe. 

This year it stands to grow its winter schedule by 23.5 per cent, more than any other airline in Europe bar Russian carrier Pobeda. 

Wizz is not alone in its claims to be the greenest airline in Europe. Ryanair says it is "Europe's greenest/cleanest major airline", with a CO2 per passenger per/km of 67g. In May Wizz said its figure was 56.5g. 


The impact of a business class cabin on an airline's emissions was highlighted in a 2018 report into the fuel efficiencies of 20 transatlantic carriers. 

According to research by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), British Airways burned 63 per cent more fuel per passenger kilometre than its low-cost rivals Norwegian. The study found that premium seats, such as business and first class, were on average up to 2.7 times as "carbon intensive" as economy seats.

"Overall, airlines with more fuel-efficient aircraft, less premium seating and higher passenger and freight load factors operated more fuel efficient flights," the report by the US-based not-for-profit organisation read.

The aviation industry accounts for around two per cent of global emissions and the environmental impact of flying has become an increasingly important topic of public conversation.

A recent report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) suggested that frequent flyer points should be axed as they encourage travellers to take more flights. This recommendation was aimed squarely at frequent flyers, who are also more likely to be travelling in business class.

In the UK, just 15 per cent of the population were responsible for taking 70 per cent of flights, according to the CCC.

Carbon offsetting is one way in which corporations and consumers can seek to negate the impact of their carbon footprint through schemes such as reforestation. However, critics of the practice say it is not the same as avoiding the damage that flying does in the first place.

Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, has previously stated: "Carbon offsets are no substitute for carbon reduction. Carbon offsets are a fig leaf and, as we said when we dropped them in 2009, a dangerous distraction from reduction."

The Telegraph, London

See also: Qantas to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050

See also: The Greta effect: Seven ways to fly less, but travel more