Kylie Jenner has faced a barrage of criticism for her decision to take her private jet on a flight that lasted just 17 minutes. But the practice of taking short trips on luxury planes seems common among the rich and famous, despite growing concerns about the climate crisis.
Jenner, the 24-year-old socialite and businesswoman, faced abuse online after posting an Instagram picture of herself and her partner, rapper Travis Scott, on an airport runway between two private jets with the caption, “You wanna take mine or yours?”
According to an automated Twitter account that tracks celebrity flights using transponders and tailfin tags, Jenner’s flight lasted just 17 minutes on July 12 and took her from Van Nuys in Los Angeles to the nearby town of Camarillo. The model previously made a 27-minute trip in her jet, a $72 million Bombardier BD 700, from Thermal, California to Van Nuys.
She was subsequently attacked by Twitter users for her “absolute disregard for the planet” and “full-time climate crime.” It is estimated that their 17-minute jaunt would have resulted in a tonne of carbon emissions, which while not a huge amount in itself accounts for about a quarter of the average person’s total annual carbon footprint worldwide.
But Jenner, who took an even shorter flight of just nine minutes between the same two locations in June, is far from the only celebrity to take short hops in private planes instead of driving or using public transit.
A check of Celebrity Jets’ tracking account suggests that just last month, rapper Drake took an 18-minute flight from Hamilton, Ontario to Toronto; Kenny Chesney, the country singer, flew just 20 minutes between Akron, Ohio and Pittsburgh; and actor Mark Wahlberg took a 23-minute flight from Dublin to Co Clare, among other short trips.
Wahlberg’s plane had arrived in Dublin on June 1, after a Flight Shorts from London; That evening the actor attended an exhibition at Chapter One restaurant in Parnell Square, where he posed with Westlife’s Nicky Byrne. After his plane landed in Shannon he played golf at Adare Manor. His jet taken off again on June 2 for a 9½-hour flight to California that Celebrity Jets calculates used about $32,000 (or more than €31,000) worth of fuel and emitted 51 tons of carbon dioxide.
Many of these short flights are to “park” a plane in a convenient or less expensive location, or are part of a longer, two-part trip, but many seem to have unclear rationale, like boxer Floyd Mayweather’s decision 14 minutes from Las Vegas fly to nearby Henderson, then to Fly back 10 minutes.
“I’m not surprised people are upset. They’re rightly pissed about it,” said Jack Sweeney, creator of the Celebrity Jets account, which uses data from a company that tracks aircraft transponders.
Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, has a similar account that only tracks the private jet of Elon Musk, Tesla’s multi-billionaire boss. In May, Musk took a 28-minute flight on his jet between the Texas cities of Houston and Austin, but Sweeney believes he should be judged differently for that.
“With Elon, he’s just trying to be as quick and efficient as possible for work, but someone like Kim Kardashian” — who’s taken long and short private jet flights — “posts ‘Kim Air’ and flexes and all that,” he says .
According to a 2016 study, private jets are responsible for about 4 percent of all emissions from aviation, with the airline industry keen to point out that flying in general accounts for only a small fraction of the total sources of greenhouse gases that heat the planet.
But private planes still emit more than 33 million tons of greenhouse gases, more than the country of Denmark, and because they carry so few people, they are five to 14 times more polluting per passenger than commercial airliners and 50 times more polluting than trains, researchers have found found out.
“These shockingly short flights show the immense influence of the wealthy on overall aviation emissions,” says Scott Hochberg, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Institute of Climate Law.
“The problem starts at the top with Kylie Jenner and other celebrities with private jets, which have a much greater impact per passenger than commercial jets. But it includes many others as well, as the US accounts for the majority of the wealthy elite who enjoy the luxury of flying.”
Emissions from private jets flown in the United States have skyrocketed since the 1990s and will continue to rise as larger and more polluting aircraft enter the market. Short trips by private jet are not just an American phenomenon; In 2019, a tenth of all flights departing France were private jets, with half traveling less than 500km. Frequent use of air travel is the domain of the world’s wealthy, with just 1 percent of the world’s population responsible for half of the emissions associated with flying.
“There are many alternatives to private jets, and trying to avoid traveling by Hoi Polloi is not a sufficient reason for excessive pollution,” says Nikita Pavlenko, fuel team leader at the International Council on Clean Transportation. “These short flights have relatively low emissions, but they are staggering per person. Emissions from aviation are growing exponentially every year, and private jet pollution is growing faster than general aviation.”
Major U.S. airlines have announced climate plans that include commitments to increase the use of low-emission, sustainable aviation fuels like cooking oil or hydrogen, with the Joe Biden administration last year announcing a goal of a 20 percent cut in aviation emissions by 2030. That goal however, is voluntary and there has not been a significant industry shift towards reducing climate impact.
“Decarbonization of aviation in the US is mostly just talk and little substance,” says Pavlenko. “Celebrities need to lead by example and get rid of planes. At the very least, they should show leadership and use sustainable fuels or a zero-emission aircraft when that’s available.” -Guardian
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