Private Jets are Being Criticized

Yeabsira Getachew, Co-Editor-in-Chief

     When people become wealthy, one of the first things that comes to mind is bettering their lives. It’s no secret that the lifestyle choices of the upper class today are problematic to many. Of all those luxuries that come with being rich, private jets are among the most luxurious as they allow the ultra-wealthy to avoid the drawbacks of “regular” airline travel. However, along with this great privilege comes extreme controversy. Environmentalists and other individuals who oppose this kind of travel are very upset with the use of private jets and the effects they have on our climate.

     The United States being one of the richest countries in the world, makes up 49.7% of the global market for private jets. Though pollution has been decreasing, there are still millions of tons of pollution being emitted into the air annually. Scientists and environmentalists are urging people to do what they can to stop polluting the earth. Meanwhile, some wonder if celebrities can’t seem to get the memo. Users on Reddit have opened many conversations on the topic of celebrities’ role in pollution. The Reddit user @sciencestolemywords shares information he acquired from a family member who was a pilot for celebrities of this level. He talks about how the planes are constantly moving from location to location since pilots don’t have accommodations to stay wherever the client is and end up having to relocate. He says “there’s added pollution if the pilots and staff can’t stay in the same city as their client. And some people have multiple jets.” His input shows us the extent to which flying these jets can contribute to the ongoing destruction of our environment. 

     Yard, a sustainable digital marketing agency, came out with an article ranking celebrities with the worst private jet CO2 emissions. There was an uproar from people on the internet about celebrities’ lack of care for the environment. The list included public figures such as Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Kim Kardashian, and Travis Scott. One of the biggest issues was the apparent hypocrisy of these highly-influential people who seem to promote saving the environment, which their transportation efforts clearly contradict. 

     According to the United Nations, an organization ensuring international safety and peace, Leonardo DiCaprio is a huge environmentalist. On its website, the UN profiles DiCaprio, a 2014 Messengers of Peace for the organization. In the profile they state:  “DiCaprio has worked to bring attention and funding to the protection of biodiversity, ocean and forest conservation, and climate change.” Yet, the Academy Award winning actor reportedly flew 8,000 miles via private jet from Europe to New York City to accept an award for his environmental activism in 2016. These displays of inconsistent actions are what cause people to call celebrities hypocrites.

     However, there are other celebrities like Tom Holland, who are being praised by users on the internet for flying commercially and aligning with the ideals they promote online. While individuals like Holland garner praise, not everyone vilifies those celebrities who choose to fly privately. Some argue that it is valid for celebrities to travel in these private planes for safety reasons. It’s no secret that famous people have to deal with bombarding paparazzi, crazy fans, and constant threats. Traveling privately definitely helps avoid harassment of any sort.

     Of course, in a time where the environment is a constant source of interest–as global warming, endangered species, and pollution prominently exist–there are many reasons why environmentalists believe the use of private jets should be extremely limited. A key reason is that 40% of the time flying jets are empty. This is because, according to Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times, “private jet passengers typically remain at their destinations for a few days, [while] their pilots often fly back to their home airports after the drop-off.” These flights are said, by Fiona Harvey of the Guardian, to have produced the same carbon as about 450,000 cars a year.

     There are definitely strong points to both sides of this dilemma. It is clear to see that the protection of the environment is important to many. Maybe in the future, scientists and engineers can work towards an eco-friendly method of secure and safe transportation for those who need it.