Airlines need to ‘do the right thing’ – or pay the price

Carriers around the world will face financial consequences and a customer backlash if they do not improve their working practices, a senior executive from Cathay Pacific has cautioned.

Airlines must operate more sustainably or face financial consequences, a senior airline executive has warned.

Philippe LaCamp, senior vice president, Americas at Cathay Pacific Airways, said airlines will face higher running costs and a customer backlash if they do not improve their working practices.

Speaking at the Accelerate aviation conference in London, LaCanmp discussed the carrier’s efforts to increase biofuel usage and more efficient fleets, which go hand-in-hand with ensuring customers are kept happy.

“It’s important for us to bring down the age of our fleet,” he said. “We’re a premium carrier and our customers expect a good product.”

“If airlines are found to be not doing the right thing, that’s going to hit you in the wallet.”

However, he did note that currently 0.01 percent of Cathay customers make use of its carbon offsetting scheme, so current take-up was low. He attributed this to a lack of knowledge rather than lack of appetite.

“We perhaps need to work harder to promote this. People don’t know what they don’t know.”

LaCamp also said that aside from customer retention, adopting more sustainable practices was increasingly important to generate profits.

He said: “We’re not altruistic. Being more sustainable cuts our biggest cost; fuel. Customer and corporate contracts will increasingly require biofuel commitments.”

Although LaCamp noted that Cathay was the first airline to invest in biofuels, and said he firmly believed the fuel sources were a “viable long-term alternative”, the industry still faces “cost and scale challenges”.

In the interim, airlines can start by “doing the obvious things” such as refusing to carry prohibited cargo such as elephant ivory.