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Will Joaquin Phoenix's Golden Globes Speech Dent The Private Plane Market?

Dave Royse

Actor Joaquin Phoenix has joined a chorus of celebrities and environmentalists criticizing private jets as an irresponsible contribution to carbon emissions in an era of climate change, a line of critique that may be starting to worry the small jet market.

At the Golden Globes award show last weekend, in his acceptance speech after winning Best Actor in a Drama for "Joker," Phoenix said celebrities have to sacrifice more to combat climate change.

"We don't have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards — and back," Phoenix said.

Should the private jet market worry about such celebrity "flight shaming?"

Flight Shaming May Be Starting To Have An Impact

Phoenix is only the latest to criticize flying private or corporate, and it's also starting to creep into the policy-making realm.

Britain's Labour Party last year said it would consider a ban on private jets, with its spokesman asking why the U.K. government was "enabling billionaires to trash the climate."

The party was defeated .i.n the UK election, putting the idea on the back burner for Parliament.

Corporate Jet Investor, a British publication for the industry and its investors, conducted polling last year that found more than half the British public supported such a ban. In the United States, support was at about 40%.

“A few years ago, very few people in the business jet industry would have cared" about remarks like those made by Phoenix, Corporate Jet Investor editor Alasdair Whyte said in an email.

But a critical mass of such comments is forming. 

"Now the industry is very sensitive to anyone focusing on its environmental impact," Whyte said.

"The industry cares deeply about the perception of private jets and does not want to lose access to airports, lose investors, find it hard to hire good people or even be banned as the Labour Party suggested."

See Also: No Clear Flight Path For Airlines On Sustainable Jet Fuel

The Private Jet Market 

A mix of publicly traded and private companies would be affected by any downturn in demand for private or corporate jet travel.

Many companies that fly the jets are small, but some major companies have large jet fleets of their own, including, for example, Walmart Inc (NYSE: WMT).

Delta Airlines, Inc (NYSE: DAL) also operates a private-corporate jet division with a fleet of about 70 business jets.

The largest private jet fleet operator is niche provider NetJets, Inc., a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK), which sells part ownership, or shares, in jets that its fractional owners can use.

Big reductions in private jet flight could also hit the manufacturing side of the industry. NetJets' fleet is mostly made up of jets made by Canadian planemaker Bombardier, Inc. (OTC: BDRBF). Other big makers of private jets are Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT), makers of the Cessna; Gulfstream Aerospace, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE: GD); and Dassault Systemes SE (OTC: DASTY).

Whyte said the industry has started to respond to public concerns about the industry's carbon footprint, including supporting efforts to fuel planes more sustainably.

“Companies are taking things like food waste and making it into jet fuel — and this has to happen faster," the editor said. 

"The really good news for Joaquin Phoenix and other actors is that California — particularly [the Los Angeles-area Van Nuys Airport] — is leading the way with sustainable aviation fuel," Whyte said. "So Joaquin and his colleagues can continue to get the benefits of private jets for many years to come."

Photo by David Brossard via Wikimedia. 

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