Everything’s gone green at British Airways

Decked out in a casual shirt and against the backdrop of a colourful garden, British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has started to state his case for the airline’s green credentials in a new column in BA’s High Life in-flight mag.

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According to the blurb “The Green Wing” is going to be Willie’s way for customers to put “eco questions” direct to him.

Question One this month was from Tom Glasgow in Dijon, France: “If a third runway at London Heathrow gets the go ahead, won’t this make things worse for climate change?”

C’mon Tom, just getting on a plane makes things worse for climate change would be my answer.

Willie doesn’t actually answer Tom’s question, or the writers who are writing the column don’t.

Green Wing’s answer: “A third runway can’t become operational until the second half of the next decade and from 2011, aviation emissions will be capped by the EU carbon-trading scheme.

“That means airlines if want to fly more they will be able to do so only if they can pay for equivalent emissions reductions in other industries. And the EU cap will tighten over time.

“It makes sense for sectors such as aviation to finance carbon-reduction investment in other industries where cleaner technologies already exist, so overall CO2 in the atmosphere will not rise because of a third runway.”

Question Two: What about the extra noise for people living near the airport?
Question Three: What do you think of bio-fuels and when could BA start using them?
Question Four: What are your tips for being a good ethical tourist?

All good questions of course, and clearly right out of BA’s “messages we want to get out to masses” communications folder.

I can’t decide whether to be cynical or praiseworthy about Green Wing. My first reaction was to recognise a proactive way of putting out BA’s green message, and to engage with customers on the environmental issue.

This was something IATA was pushing airline bosses to do at its 2007 annual meeting. It even put together an environmental lobby website for airlines to point to (Willie is not pointing you that way in Green Wing, but I can).

My second reaction to Green Wing was that it is all a little too controlled, a little too contrived. Who really is going to send a letter to Willie? Surely the questions are cooked up?

A Green Wing blog might be more interesting and interactive. But, as you the reader knows, being part of the blogosphere is a world where corporate control is frowned upon.

So let’s see where Green Wing goes.

I’ll have to buy a ticket on BA to read the March column of course.

Read the Airline Business comment on emissions trading here.

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