Private jet flights in Europe soar to record levels — and most were ultra-short journeys

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A private jet is landing over the snowy mountains of St. Moritz in Switzerland. Private jet emissions, which have a disproportionate impact on the environment, were found to have more than doubled in Europe in 2022.
Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

A private jet aviation boom shows no signs of slowing.

Analysis published Thursday by environmental campaign group Greenpeace showed the number of private jet flights in Europe last year rose by a whopping 64% to reach a record high of 572,806.

Private jet emissions, which have a disproportionate impact on the environment, were found to have more than doubled in Europe in 2022, exceeding the annual per capita carbon emissions of 550,000 European Union residents.

More than half (55%) of the private jet flights in Europe last year were ultra-short journeys below 750 kilometers (466 miles), Greenpeace said, noting that these were trips that could have been taken by train or ferry instead.

It comes at a time when Europe is in the grip of a severe winter drought and shortly after the region’s driest summer in at least 500 years. Scientists warned in late January that a lack of groundwater across the continent meant the water situation was now “very precarious.”

“The alarming growth of private jet flights is entirely at odds with all the climate science that tells us to bring down CO2 emissions immediately in order to avert total disaster,” said Klara Maria Schenk, transport campaigner for Greenpeace’s Mobility for All campaign.

“Reducing oil-powered transport immediately is a no-brainer, starting with a ban on energy-wasting ultra-polluting private jets that provide no value for people, yet burden them with harmful emissions, toxic microparticles and noise, harming our climate, environment and health,” Schenk said.

The analysis found that the countries with the most private jet flights in Europe last year were the U.K., France and Germany.

The most popular destinations for private jet flights in Europe in 2022 were the French Riviera city of Nice, France’s capital of Paris and Switzerland’s second-most populous city of Geneva.

Rising demand

Greenpeace said the research, which was conducted by Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft, was based on data provided by aviation analytics company Cirium. It assessed all private flights departing from and arriving in European nations from 2020 through to 2022 and separated these trips by year, route and aircraft type.

Some small aircraft types with less than three seats were excluded as these were trips predominantly used for leisure. The data also excludes flights to and from the same airport and trips to and from airports without a unique International Air Transport Association code.

Private jet use has been soaring for some time. Indeed, major private jet manufacturers have been racing to keep pace with the uptick in demand since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with first-time buyers fueling record sales.

A wealth boom, stronger leisure demand and the gradual loosening of Covid-19 restrictions are some of the factors seen driving the rise in private jet demand.

Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion, Scientist Rebellion and Last Generation block the entrance of the “Milano Linate Prime” fixed-base operator airport facility in Milan on Nov. 10, 2022, demanding the ban of private jet, tax frequent flyers and introduce taxation of most polluters.
Piero Cruciatti | Afp | Getty Images

Private jet emissions in Europe have soared at a faster rate than commercial aviation in recent years.

Data from the non-governmental organization Transport & Environment shows that private jets are up to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes per passenger, and up to 50 times more polluting than trains.

That’s because, in just one hour, a single private jet can emit two metric tons of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, the average person in the EU emits 8.2 metric tons of CO2 equivalent over the course of an entire year.

Earlier this month, the world’s leading climate scientists published a “survival guide for humanity,” calling for a deep, rapid and sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This temperature threshold refers to the aspirational goal of the landmark Paris Agreement.

It is widely regarded as a crucial global target because so-called tipping points become more likely beyond this level of global heating. Tipping points are thresholds at which small changes can lead to dramatic shifts in Earth’s entire life support system.

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