Open Letter to United CEO Jeff Smisek from Premier Status Frequent Flyers
CEO Jeff Smisek United Airlines, Inc.
PO Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666
Dear Mr. Smisek,
We are writing to request that United Airlines stop obstructing efforts to reduce aviation climate pollution and start actively supporting strong climate action.
We are your best customers. We have invested in our relationship with United. We consider ourselves to be part of the United family.
Many of us do what we can to reduce the impact that our flying has on the environment and public health. Some of us offset our carbon or invest in conservation. Many of us have tried our best to reduce the number of flights we take each year. We know United has also taken important steps to increase the fuel efficiency of its fleet and to make investments in research for cleaner fuels.
However, 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. As you are well aware, Hurricane Sandy resulted in 5,300 canceled United Airlines flights, costing your company $35 million in profits. Such massive costs are only going to increase for United and the rest of the airline industry as extreme weather events due to climate change become more frequent.
Air travel will also become more onerous and less desirable for your customers as unpredictable weather wreaks havoc in the skies. What we are describing is not something far off in the future; we are already seeing the impacts of climate change today. In fact, many of the places that we love to travel to are disappearing before our eyes, as ski resorts get less and less snow, glaciers melt away, tropical islands become submerged, and coral reefs die. Climate change and the atmospheric disruption resulting from it may shortly be the largest economic threat to the aviation industry. And it is one that United cannot ignore.
Given all that is at stake, we 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. United’s trade association, Airlines for America, of which you are the Vice Chairman, has taken an uncompromising stance against any and all regulations to limit climate change pollution - a position viewed as extreme even by other global airline industry partners. And you have personally been proactive in speaking out in the media and in United’s Hemispheres magazine against Europe’s reasonable efforts to include aviation in its’ climate law, even though the cost for United to comply is only $3 per passenger on a one-way trans-Atlantic flight, which is minimal compared to the long-term costs United will incur if climate change pollution continues to rise. We would happily pay this fee to help reduce pollution from flying.
As United’s elite customer-base, we are calling on United to do its part to contribute to pollution reduction and climate change mitigation, by doing all of the following:
- Stop interfering with sub-national, national, regional, and global policy-making efforts aimed at reducing pollution from aviation.
- Support a global market-based measure in the International Civil Aviation Organization that requires a significant reduction in aviation greenhouse gas emissions, below current voluntary goals. United should not support a sovereign airspace-based approach that would not account for emissions over international waters or any measure that would undermine the European Union Aviation Directive.
- Support the original European Union Aviation Directive, which includes all emissions from all international flights arriving in and departing from Europe in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.
- Encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to develop regulations under the Clean Air Act that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions below current voluntary goals from flights within, into, and out of the United States.
United has always championed innovation, progress, and speed. That is part of the reason we became United frequent fliers. But when it comes to addressing climate change, your company in particular has been an unyielding roadblock. Such behavior weakens the U.S. economy and leaves United, its fellow U.S. air carriers, and the United States behind as a growing number of countries seek solutions to the mounting pressures of climate change.
Mr. Smisek, as the President and CEO of our airline and a leader in the global industry, you can help chart a new course for airlines everywhere.
Thank you for your consideration.
[your name here]