Lonely Planet Writer

Low-cost airlines are more environmentally friendly than premium flights

Next time you’re taking a cheap flight and cursing the baggage fees or feeling peckish from the lack of free snacks, you can take comfort in the fact that your low-cost flight is more environmentally friendly than higher-cost alternatives.

conservation environment
Low-cost airlines could actually be better for the earth. Image by Diogo Salles/Getty

The researchers at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology compared aircraft models, CO2 emissions and passenger numbers and discovered that low-cost carriers are often greener than their more expensive counterparts. This is primarily because they tend to fill their planes with travellers, leading to an overall reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. For travellers who care about sustainability, the researchers also recommend opting for a direct flight. A stopover can lead to an increase of up to 35% per person in emissions. Researcher Andreas Schennings told TT Newswire that “many airlines take detours and are still cheaper. But the environmental damage is much greater.”

An easyJet plane
Low-cost carriers like easyJet are helping the environment by filling their planes. Image by Mark Harkin / CC BY 2.0

Using the data collected from the study, the researchers have created an algorithm for users to help keep track of their carbon footprint on the Swedish flight comparison site flygresor.se. A study from May 2016 examined the greenhouse gas emissions of 20 major airlines with Finnair coming out tops for being the cleanest airline, though low-cost carriers Easyjet and Ryanair also made decent showings, adding weight to the recent findings. There is also a push from airline carriers in New Zealand and Australia to start using locally produced biofuel in their airplanes. In the meantime, however, for the truly sustainable traveller the researchers have one solid recommendation: “Take the train instead.”