Why Wizz Air Thinks Some Airlines’ Carbon Neutral Pledges Are A Joke

Wizz Air’s Chief Executive Officer, József Váradi, laid bare his thoughts on carbon neutral pledges in a company earnings call yesterday. Specifically, he slammed legacy carriers for their lackluster approach to the issue of carbon emissions in the aviation industry.

Wizz Air's new aircraft livery
It’s been a great year for Wizz Air. Photo: Wizzairhungary via Wikimedia Commons

Wizz Air’s top brass convened on their Q2 2019/2020 earnings call yesterday to discuss the carrier’s performance. Wizz Air has been one of this year’s top performers across the industry, boasting a record net profit of €372 million during quarters one and two.

This financial performance was underpinned by a significant increase in passenger journeys, which increased by 18% to 22 million. But arguably more impressive, and certainly more important for the rest of us, Wizz Air continues to shine when it comes to CO2 emissions.

Wizz Air’s green performance

During yesterday’s call, Váradi confirmed the airline’s emissions performance, and it’s certainly impressive. Per passenger-kilometer, Wizz Air emits 56 grams of CO2, which is 15% lower than low-cost rival Ryanair, and between 60-70% lower than most legacy carriers.

It’s no coincidence that Wizz Air has achieved such impressive emissions figures. The airline has made a concerted effort to target lower CO2 emissions through a number of different business practices and strategies.

G-WUKE Airbus A320 Wizz Air UK
Wizz Air has a young, fuel-efficient fleet. Photo: James via Flickr

Most of Wizz Air’s emissions savings come from its young, economy-only fleet, which it is constantly updating. The carrier currently has a whopping 179 Airbus A321neos and 20 Airbus A321XLRs on order.

This focus on the newest, most fuel-efficient aircraft lies at the center of Wizz Air’s green performance. And it’s aided by the carrier’s high seat density and passenger load factor, which allow it to pack in more passengers for every gallon of fuel burnt.

During yesterday’s performance call, Váradi expressed his opinion on legacy carriers’ approach towards business class seats:

“Flying a lot of business class, flying a lot of connecting passengers, they are affecting the environment in a bad way.”

Váradi’s opinion on carbon neutral pledges

Business class seats certainly weren’t the only aspect of legacy carriers’ business model Váradi openly criticized. When it comes to carbon neutral pledges, Váradi seems to think there is a big difference between the idea and what is being done in practice.

When asked about his opinion on carbon neutral pledges, Váradi responded:

“I think this is such a great commitment. I mean, you should be really giving a lot of credit to that.”

But when it comes to legacy airlines using these pledges as a means of effectively kicking the can down the road, he expressed a very different opinion:

“I think it’s a bit of a joke what they are saying … just look at what they are doing, look at their business model. Inherently, their business model is environmentally polluting.”

As Váradi rightly points out, there is a big gulf between words and action when it comes to airlines pledging their commitment to carbon neutrality.

An Air France jet on the tarmac
Air France and KLM were two carriers Váradi picked on for their poor environmental performance. Photo: Olivier CABARET via Flickr

If this judgment was coming from an airline that wasn’t making as much of an effort to go green as Wizz Air, then it could be seen as somewhat hypocritical.

But Wizz Air is actively trying to make its fleet as efficient as possible. It just so happens that it’s good for business and good for the environment.

Wizz Air hasn’t been able to respond to Simple Flying’s request for comment on Mr. Váradi’s statements yet, but we will update the article when we receive a response.