US billionaire and co-founder of Farallon Capital Management, Tom Steyer, and other members of a group of United Airlines' most frequent flyers, have called on the big airline to stop blocking climate change actions. United’s business class and super frequent flyers represent only 5 percent of ticket sales but generate 50-75 percent of total profits, making them the airline’s most prized and influential customers.
Tom Steyer, urged the carrier to stop trying to block standards to reduce pollution from vehicles and aircraft and instead encourage cleaner transportation fuels and smart market-based climate policies. As a member of United’s invitation-only “Global Services” program, Steyer is among the airline’s most important customers. More than 500 elite United Airlines premier status frequent flyers – including 20 members of the exclusive invitation-only Global Services program, several flyers with 1-to-6 million miles as well as frequent flyer guru Randy Peterson – had signed the letter to United’s CEO Jeff Smisek.
Steyer called on United to withdraw its affiliation with Fueling California. In a statement by Flying Clean, a national campaign working to cut pollution from airplanes, Steyer said: “In my home state of California, United is playing a leadership role in trying to get rid of our clean fuel standard, which doesn’t even cover airlines. If United wants to stay competitive, it needs to take climate change seriously and act in its customers’ – and the planet’s – best interest. It’s time to recognize that the friendly skies will get a whole lot un-friendlier if we don’t take action on climate.”
In the teleconference, Steyer and other representatives from United’s elite frequent flyer programs released a letter urging the company to take a stand on climate change.
The letter to United states that "Due to a surge in global air travel, the voluntary actions United has taken are not keeping up with the soaring levels of airplane pollution. Left unchecked, airplane pollution will double by 2020 and quadruple by 2050, growing by 3-4% each year. The airline industry’s rising contribution to climate change is undermining the gains from emissions reductions in other sectors and countries. A solution is urgently needed if we are to avert the most catastrophic impacts of the atmospheric disruption that climate change is causing. From an economic standpoint, United Airlines has a vested interest in finding a solution."
Given all that is at stake, many elite flyers have stated that they are very disappointed to learn that United and other airlines have been deploying lawyers, PR experts, and lobbyists to fight common sense, low cost policies that would reduce airplane pollution.
The letter states that passengers were willing to pay a carbon tax on aviation, which amounts to an increase in fares of about $3 per passenger on a one-way trans-Atlantic flight, since it would help reduce pollution from flying.
As United’s elite customer-base, the group were calling on United to do its part to contribute to pollution reduction and climate change mitigation, by doing all of the following:
Elite passengers have commented to the issue as follows:
“If you do not stand down on this issue and back away, not only will I never fly your airlines again, I will mention it to all the frequent flyers I know.”
“I have loved United for years and would re-consider this love, if necessary.”
“Bye, bye United Airlines. Hope you like empty seats on your flights.”
“I do not need United to fly to my most common destinations. I have a choice and that choice will not be United, Thank You.”
“I fly all the time, and knowing that United Airlines is putting out the message that they are “green” while fighting against any policy that will really reduce pollution means I will NEVER fly United again. Additionally I will tell everyone I know for as long as.”
“I will never fly United again. Be part of the solution!”
“Please help the environment and be a company that will survive not one that will eventually go out of business because it doesn’t care. It will happen.”
“CEO Smisek: I’ve been a mileage plus member for 30 years. I think it is the best American airline. Please embrace, not impede, the meaningful policy solutions that cut airplane pollution. This is your chance to start leading this initiative. I am appalled to read about your lawsuit against Europe’s climate law. You must publicize immediately your change of position on regulating aviation to control pollution or you must resign. You are apparently not suitable to lead this corporation in the 21st century.”
“I fly United for all my domestic flights and am ashamed that it is blocking climate action, especially when clean, renewable energy is already possible for airlines.”
“I am one of your frequent flyers, but I will look elsewhere if you oppose policies to reduce airplane pollution. We all need to work together for solutions, and I’m interested in doing business with companies who are proactively working to clean up our planet.”
“I fly 3-4 times a year. Won’t be choosing United unless this is reconsidered.”