Airport needs change of mentality

More than 29 million passengers a year, 26.000 jobs and 210 destinations: the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) plays a big role in the Northern English economy and society, but also in the environmental condition of the area. In the coming years, the airport wants to expand with a 100 percent and at the same time become carbon neutral. Therefore help from the passengers and employees is needed; they pollute the most.

The airport is located just a little bit outside of the city and is the busiest airport outside of London region. It is quiet at the airport on the fourth day of the strike of British Airways. Manchester Airport isn’t hit as hard as some other airports, like Heathrow; only about 15 percent of the flights are cancelled. However, it still causes a quiet ambiance. Manchester Airport looks small and effective. No shops before the passport and luggage checks, just a big line of check-in desks. The airport contains of three terminals, connected with passages. Every day about 800.000 people travel to and from the airport.

Manchester Airport wants to expand and built an extra runway. But, ‘the environmental consequences may not increase in line with airport growth, so the airport will strive to reduce its scale and nature in real terms, wherever possible,’ says the airport on its website.

The airport set up an action plan to reduce carbon emissions. A big role is reserved for travelers and employees. About sixty percent of the airport’s ground pollution comes from passengers and employees who travel to and from the airport. In the Action Plan the airport set up a plan with which it’s going to try to change the travelling habits of passengers and staff in order to reduce emissions. Consciousness about what is polluting is a beginning; travelling to the airport by train or bus will fix another big part.


According to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the average household in the UK emits 9.96 tonnes of CO2 each year; the average individual emits 4.25 tonnes (this is also called a ‘carbon footprint’). A holiday to a tropical area or a few business trips a year can raise this amount very fast.

Flying against the environment

Andy Webb (0.91 tonnes of CO2) is waiting in the line for his flight to Israel. “If I would drive my car there, it would be even worse for the environment. I think it would be better to put 300 people in one airplane then to let everyone go by car. I can’t put 300 people in my car.” Travelling by bus or train is another option, but “I travel for work purposes today. I work for a company that works on installing wind turbines. If I would travel through another way it would cost me way too much time.”

Zoya (1.30 tonnes of CO2) is saying goodbye to her boyfriend because she flies off to Doha, Qatar later in the afternoon. “I travel by plane a few times a year.” She is aware of the fact that the aircraft is bad for the environment. “ But there are no other options to travel to Qatar, so I am dependent on the plane; it is just easy.”

Ray Williams (0.20 tonnes of CO2) takes off to Paris. He often travels, for work and pleasure. He is aware of the fact that flying is very bad for the environment. “But I still won’t take the car or train to Paris. This just goes faster. I work here in the near neighbourhood so it is just easier to go by plane.”

Next to him sits Rosi (0.34 tonnes of CO2), waiting for her flight to Mallorca. She is a big sceptic about all the environmental plans of the airport. She flies to Palma Mallorca to go on a holiday with a friend. Sometimes she also flies work purposes. Rosi can’t drive to Mallorca by car, but “aren’t all the other ways of transport more polluting than flying?”

Eshjan Baqei (1.30 tonnes of CO2) travels very often, for school and for fun. Today she flies with her mother and sister. She doesn’t know anything about how polluting flying is and isn’t very willing to try another form of transportation that is less polluting. “It has to be as comfortable as the plane; then I would think about it.”

Ziyad Al’rawas (1.30 tonnes of CO2) is at Manchester Airport to say goodbye to his friend who flies to Qatar. Since he is from Qatar himself as well, he often travels by plane. “If other ways of travelling are less polluting, they could be an option for me. But only if they’re almost or just as fast.”

Michael Noble (0.40 tonnes of CO2) is waiting for his daughter who is checking in for a flight to Malaga. He himself travels about twice a year by plane, for holidays and occasional for business. “The places I go to can’t be reached with a car or train. So I have to travel by plane. But I am aware of the fact that this is not good for the environment.”

Peter Pennington (0.61 tonnes of CO2) and his wife fly to Lanzarote. Two to three times a year they take the plane to a location where they’re going to celebrate a holiday. “There is no other way to go to Lanzarote, but if there was one, I would consider it.”

Many people won’t give up travelling by plane because it is ‘not good for the environment’. It is the fastest and easiest way to travel to most places. Travelling by car, if alone, is even more polluting than flying. Trains and especially buses are slower than the plane and therefore not a realistic option.

You can also calculate the carbon emissions you pollute yourself on carbon

Thick wallets come before environment

Lately there is a possibility to pay back your carbon output; it’s called carbon offsetting. You pay extra money (£16,50 per tonne of carbon) for you ticket so this money can be invested in environmental friendly projects. For a trip within Europe, the amount you have to pay stays beneath five pounds. For long distance trips this can be more. Do you want to pay this?

Andy Bebb: I’m going on a business trip today, so in this case my employer should pay it. Personally I wouldn’t mind paying extra.”

Zoya: “Only if the extra charge isn’t that big. I prefer to fly as cheap as possible.”

Ray Williams: “As long as it is a reasonable prize.” But I have never tried it, because I didn’t know the option was there.”

Rosi: “Even if I pay extra, the plane still pollute the same. They say that they’re going to invest the money well, but I don’t believe it. I just want to travel in the most convenient way from the most convenient place.”

Eshjan Baqei: “I don’t think it’s a very good idea to pay more; I just want the cheapest.”

Ziyad Al’rawas: “I think about it, but it depends on how it works and if my budget allows it.”

Michael Noble: “For a short flight this could be a possibility for me, but if I already pay about 800 pounds for a ticket.. No, then that’s enough for me.”

Peter Pennington: “Paying a few pounds extra and doing good: why not?”

Most of the people care more about their wallets than the environment. They are willing to pay extra for their ticket, but only when it’s a little bit.

Most of the questioned passengers travelled to the airport by car. Some went by bus, but only because they don’t have a car. The environment still stands on a low importance spot with most people; price and especially comfort are number one.

Manchester Airport Action Plan

• The Manchester Airport Group consists of the four airports: Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside, who are all completely owned by the national and local governments.

• In 2006 MAG set up an environmental plan to become carbon neutral by the year of 2015.

• The pollution that has to be cut down or compensated comes from the planes that taxi on the ground (22%), energy used in terminals (18%) and the travelling to and from the airport of passengers and employees (60%).

• The passengers emit 225 tonnes of CO2, the staff about 20 tonnes.

What the airport is going to do

• Installation of four wind turbines

• (Plans) to install ground source heat plans

• Biomass and solar energy

• Change people’s mentality. Sixty percent of the pollution comes from the people who travel to and from the airport, for one reason or another. They should leave their car at home and starts to travel by bus or train.

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