An article titled “Sustainable Aviation: Increased cost of greener aviation will curtail pax demand” posted in TR Business (a business to business trade magazine) on 17 April 2023 reports that greener aviation will lead to a loss of thousands of jobs, higher travel costs and low passenger demand. As climate change due to air carbonization and temperature increase is a crucial topic nowadays, we decided to research the statements in the article.
Screenshot taken from TR Business 18 April 2023
First of all, the author of the article is Kristiane Sherry who is not an official journalist and is fully self-employed. She shares about her career on LinkedIn: „Since going freelance in July 2022 I’ve written for consumer and freelance titles, contributed to books and reports, presented live streams, worked on copywriting projects, delivered spirits training…“ The author considers herself to be a specialist in articles related to alcoholic beverages. Among the topics she specializes in are Wine and Travel. Perhaps that is precisely why the article was written by her, but despite her knowledge in the travel field, we believe that this topic requires more knowledge to achieve full credibility, such as technological knowledge. In TR Business, her name should lead to a link, but unfortunately it doesn’t work.
TR Business magazine was established in October 1997 as The Duty Free Business. It aims to provide information and analysis on decisions in the duty free/trade retail industry. Nowadays it is perceived as a serious B2B source of information. Its owners are Nigel Hardy and Janice Hook. When checking whether the article is original by searching by title and parts of the text, it turns out that its content is authentic.
The article does not explain what the organization Sustainable Aviation is, and this is very important because this increases the credibility of the content. The original source is the About us page on their site.
Sustainable Aviation is, according to their site, a long term strategy which sets out the collective approach of UK aviation to tackling the challenge of ensuring a cleaner, quieter, smarter future for the aviation industry. Launched in 2005, it is a world first bringing together major UK airlines, airports, manufacturers, air navigation service providers and key business partners. They are focused on finding collaborative ways of improving their environmental performance and creating a balanced debate to ensure sustainable growth of our industry, which is crucial to the health of the UK’s island trading economy. Sustainable Aviation has set a range of goals and commitments covering climate change, noise and local air quality to deliver a sustainable future for our industry.
The article uses quotes from Matthew Gorman, but nowhere does it say where he made this statement, and there is no detailed information about him. We found more information about him on the Sustainable Aviation site. Matthew Gorman is Carbon Strategy Director for Heathrow in the Carbon, Communications and Communities department. He has been Sustainability & Environment Director at the airport for the last decade and is serving as Chair of Sustainable Aviation for the second time. He has represented the global airports industry in the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s working group on aviation and climate change, and Heathrow on the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change.
It is important to note that he is in charge of communications at Heathrow Airport to add credibility to the article.
The article does not give more information about the abbreviation SAF, which stands for Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The US Energy Government’s explanation can be used as a primary source, which provides detailed information about SAF.
Key points of the Net Zero Carbon Map
In the second paragraph of the article a “Net Zero Carbon Road Map” is mentioned, but we don’t get any information about what this Road Map is or the purpose of it. The road map brochure is published by Sustainable Aviation.
After checking page 4 of the Road Map, paragraph 4, we find out that the Net Zero Carbon Road Map draws on expertise from all corners of the UK aviation industry, including airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers, air navigation service providers and wider supply chain and innovation organizations. It is based on a thorough review of the opportunities to cut aviation carbon emissions through smarter flight operations, new aircraft, and engine technology, modernizing our airspace, the use of sustainable aviation fuels and significant investment in carbon reductions through effective carbon market-based policy measures and greenhouse gas removals (GGRs).
In that same paragraph of the TR Business article, Sherry writes:“In its Net Zero Carbon Road-Map, the aviation collective, which counts UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers as members, also said the UK risked losing a potential of 60,000 jobs and its position as a global leader in air travel sustainability without more government support.”
We consider this information as misleading, because according to the Road Map, page 35, bullet point 4, UK SAF production would create over 10,300 jobs and generate nearly £1.8bn of GVA to the UK by 2030. In 2050 these figures rise to 60,000 jobs and support over £10bn of GVA.
Consequently, there could be an opportunity for 60,000 job positions by the end of 2050 rather than many positions would be lost without the said government support. “In its updated strategy document, it confirmed that UK aviation can continue to grow while meeting its commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
After investigating the quotation below, we confirmed that the Sustainable Skies World Summit took place on 17-18 April 2023, as it was written in the article. There wasn’t, however, any information about the launch of the report, other than it was originally published in 2020 and later updated (according to information in the Road Map, it happened 3 years after the first release).“The launch of the report coincides with the Sustainable Skies World Summit, taking place this week in Farnborough, UK.” Based on the information written in the Road Map, the summit took place indeed, so we find the statement is mostly true.
“In addition to celebrating the UK’s pioneering role in the development of SAF (at least eight producers are planning plants in the country, in addition to the active Philipps 66 site on the Humber), the report praises advances in airspace modernisation.” This text, taken directly from the article, can be exemplified with information on page 3, paragraph 4 of the Road Map:
“In 2020, the UK aviation industry was the first anywhere in the world to commit to net zero2050, when we published our previous Road-Map. Since then, global airlines, and global governments through International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), have committed to the same goal.”. Later on page 37 we can find the development of the Road Map. There is written that in 2022 SAF produced for the first time in the UK at the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery. Consequently, the conclusion about this part is that it is true.
Later on we have the sentence: “Yet it points to the “reality” that the increased cost of decarbonising aviation will “inevitably reduce passenger demand” and the topic can be found on page 3, paragraph 6 of the Road Map: “Increased costs for industry and consumers could have some impact on future demand for air travel, but our work shows that significant ongoing growth can be achieved at the same time as decarbonising aviation. That’s the goal the sector has set itself: to protect the benefits for the UK of growing international connectivity, by achieving net zero carbon aviation by 2050.” As this whole statement is rather a prediction depending on future possibilities, we consider it uncheckable.
Working paper of the International Civil Aviation Organization
“The demand reduction due to the costs of decarbonisation represents around 14 percent of the industry’s reduction in CO2 emissions,” Sustainable Aviation said in a statement.” Attached here is the link to the statement which proves that these words are true.
The following statement: “However, this modeling also shows that, even with slightly higher costs, people still want to fly, with overall growth in passenger numbers of almost 250 million by 2050” is a prediction depending on future possibilities, therefore we can consider it uncheckable because on page 16, paragraph 2, we can find proof: “In 2022 passenger numbers returned to 75% of 2019 baseline. By 2050 passenger numbers are forecast to be 83% greater than the 2019 baseline.”
Gorman’s statement in the article is quoted: “Increased costs for industry and consumers could have some impact on future demand for air travel, but our work shows that significant ongoing growth can be achieved at the same time as decarbonising aviation.” However, there are no further details mentioned about it. After checking in the Net Zero Carbon Map document, these words can be found on page 3, paragraph 6, line 3 to 6 in the Foreword by the Sustainable Aviation Chair chapter. Checking into the document led to the conclusion that the statement was true.
Sustainable Aviation estimates that 9.6 million tones of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) could be saved due to the decarbonization cost impact on demand” this sentence is found on page 4, paragraph 2, first bullet point and is part of a group of predictions in SA’s Executive Summary. Having said that this is a prediction, it’s considered uncheckable.
“Other measures which will contribute to meeting the net-zero carbon commitment include fleet upgrades and direct air capture methods.” As an additional sentence to the previous one, this is describing shortly the other measures outlined in the bulleted list in the same paragraph 2 on page 4.
“New, more efficient aircraft” and “electric and hydrogen aircraft” relate to upgrading the fleet, while “better air management and operating procedures” relates to air capture methods. Based on that, we consider this statement is mostly true because it’s a summary of a larger piece of information and conclusions are drawn indirectly.
Figure 3: Sustainable Aviation Net Zero Carbon Road-Map
source: Net Zero Carbon Map
“By 2050, the UK aviation industry can deliver net zero carbon emissions through the following initiatives compared with a scenario of growth at today’s efficiency: 9.6 Million tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) saving due to decarbonization cost impact on demand; 2.5 MtCO2 saving from better air traffic management and operating procedures; 9.5 MtCO2 saving from introduction of known and new, more efficient aircraft; 10.6 MtCO2 saving from introduction of future, more efficient aircraft types including electric and hydrogen aircraft;” . The underlined parts of the quoted bulleted list above exemplify the statement.
“This is the critical decade where aviation must prove it will decarbonise,”: these words are said to be Gorman’s statement again. However, it’s rather a combination of a self opinion and a prediction for the future as no factual information is given, neither are statistics mentioned. The attached link leads to an article on the SA’s official website where the statement is in paragraph 16, lines 2 and 3. The article is from 17. April 2023 which corresponds with the date the TR Business’s article has been published online. These are indeed Gorman’s words but in their origin they can be considered uncheckable because they are more of a combination of a self opinion and a prediction for the future.
Towards the end of the text, we see a quotation from Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic. There are no further details about this person in the article or external links that prove his work experience. The article also lacks information about Virgin Atlantic. Firstly, we confirmed that Shai Weiss is Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Atlantic and an Executive Director of the Virgin Atlantic board. He has been a member of the Virgin Atlantic board since 2012. This information can be found on the official Virgin Atlantic website. Secondly, Shai Weiss has a personal LinkedIn account where he has listed his work experience. Lastly, Virgin Atlantic is a travel company who states their goal is to reduce its carbon footprint using sustainable aviation fuels and a “mission to net zero by 2050”. More information can be found on various pages on their official website.
The following quotation from Weiss takes place in the article: “ As well as helping to meet our collective net zero 2050 goal, a UK SAF industry supports our energy security and creates economic growth through an innovative new green industry. With the right level of Government support and partnership across industry we can make this vision a reality, securing a more sustainable future for the UK’s world leading aviation sector.”
There are no external links that lead to the source of Weiss’ statement. After investigating, we found an article from Sustainable Aviation that was published on the 17th of April of 2023, which is the same day that Kristianne Sherry published her article in TRBusiness. In the last part of Weiss’ statement, we can clearly outline external factors, such as Government support and partnership, that are required to meet the end goal. As this whole statement is a prediction depending on external factors, we can consider it uncheckable.
The last paragraph of the article touches on the subject of Heathrow Airport’s own net zero plan. There is an external link, leading to an article published 10 days earlier than the current one. Both articles have the same author – Kristiane Sherry. The author says: “Last month, Heathrow Airport confirmed its own net-zero plan is ‘consistent’ with a 1.5-degree pathway, although it was failing to meet a number of its own targets.” In the article that we’re currently investigating, the author didn’t list the targets that Heathrow was failing to meet, nor did she provide a credible source that supports the statement. After investigating, we confirmed that there is no proof that Heathrow is failing to reach their announced or expected goals. Based on that, we confirm that this statement from Sherry is false.
Our thorough and detailed research and investigation of facts results in the conclusion that the article is mostly true. The ground upon which we consider it ‘mostly true’ is that there are no external links for further proof like the example with the Net Zero Carbon Map picture or the organization of the SAF summit meeting. In addition, there is vague information regarding all the figures related to the article – both Matthew Gorman, director of Carbon Strategy and Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, who are supposed to have an influence on the facts and their credibility. Although it’s Business-to-business article, it causes doubts in the reader in terms of its authenticity. Any content which is with unclear origin could be questionable to a reader having in mind that the links we as researchers provided, could have been posted while writing the article (except for the Heathrow Airport’s decisions link in the end). The purpose of this document was to outline and explain the details from the article where the main outcome is that the information is mostly true.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Viktoria Gancheva, Maya Manova, Nedelina Koleva, Darina Jeleva, Sofia University, Bulgaria
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