EasyJet (EZJ.L) on Tuesday said that it would offset carbon emissions from all of its flights, effectively immediately.
The move makes the low-cost carrier the first net-zero carbon airline in the world, and comes as full-year headline before-tax profits at the company fell by 26% to £427m.
EasyJet said it would spend around £25m a year on offsetting, which involves paying for certain initiatives that take planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in exchange for the greenhouse gases generated by its planes.
Offsetting as a practice faces criticism, in large part because it does not actually reduce the overall amount of carbon emissions.
But EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said on Tuesday that the airline recognised that “offsetting is only an interim measure”.
“However, our priority is to continue to work on reducing our carbon footprint in the short term, coupled with long-term work to support the development of new technology, including electric planes, to reinvent aviation for the long-term,” Lundgren said.
The announcement came as the airline reported results that were broadly in line with expectations, and at the higher end of its own guidance.
Revenue in the year to the end of September climbed by 8.3% to £6.4bn, while passenger numbers increased 8.6% to 88.5 million.
Revenue per seat, a key metric in the airline industry, fell 1.8% to £60.81 — something the airline said reflected “economic uncertainty” across its markets.
EasyJet pointed to uncertainty surrounding the original March 2019 Brexit date as something that impacted its performance in the second quarter of the year. It also pointed to a “softer” London market and drone sightings at London Gatwick airport.
Last month, British Airways said it would be carbon neutral by 2050. Parent company IAG (IAG.L), said that it would offset all emissions from domestic flights in the UK from next year.
While EasyJet may be the world’s first major airline to offset all of its carbon emissions in 2019, in 2007 it became one of the last major European carriers to offer it as an option to customers.
Many airlines allow customers to spend more for the cost of their flight, in effect paying to offset the emissions from their journey.
EasyJet back then cited efforts to create a robust initiative, whereby the money was spent on projects that effectively reduced emissions.
EasyJet said on Tuesday that it would only choose programmes that met Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard accreditation, which it said were “globally recognised and respected for their standards of offsetting”.
The airline also announced that it would introduce its EasyJet Holidays offering in the UK before Christmas, which will allow it to target the millions of its customers who travel for leisure with accommodation packages.
“I am really thrilled that with the launch, before Christmas, of our brand new easyJet Holidays business we are bringing flexibility and excellent value to the holiday market We are now able to offer our customers more than 100 amazing beach and city holiday destinations,” said Lundgren.
The airline said that forward bookings for flights in the first half of its 2020 financial year were “reassuring” and slightly ahead of 2019.