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Lufthansa's Green Fares take flight as air travelers show they're prepared to pay more

In February 2023, Lufthansa Group launched Green Fares, the world's first flight fare that incorporates CO2 emission offsets, in a step towards reducing the environmental harm done by air travel. One hundred days after introducing the new fare type, Lufthansa announced that 200,000 passengers have already opted to pay more, with the highest number of Green Fares booked by those flying SWISS on the Zurich to London route.

While most airlines offer carbon offsetting as an add-on that customers can select while booking a flight, airlines within the Lufthansa Group are the first to bring a more responsible option to the front of the booking process. Green Fares aren't extras but standalone fares that are bookable alongside standard Economy and Business. The price difference varies by route and airline, but on the flights we checked, Economy Green tickets were around EUR 50–60 more expensive than Economy Light.

To entice customers to choose green(er), the airline group offers a few bonus benefits: flexible rebooking at no charge, plus 20% extra status and award miles on European routes. How exactly are a flight's CO2 emissions compensated? A fifth is offset by blending Sustainable Aviation Fuels with traditional jet fuel, and the remainder through contributions to 'high-quality climate protection projects.'

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By shifting part of the financial burden of environmentally responsible operations to passengers, Lufthansa is also raising awareness about the environmental cost of air travel. That awareness could lead to increasingly conscious decision-making. As airlines bear the upfront expenditures of transitioning to greener technologies, passengers can support those efforts by choosing airlines that prioritize sustainability. A McKinsey study of five years of CPG sales data revealed that consumers are indeed underwriting their ESG preferences with corresponding purchases. For example, sales of products claiming to be 'carbon zero' grew 8.5% more than similar products that didn't make that claim. 

A shared responsibility alliance between airlines and passengers could foster a virtuous cycle, with airlines responding to consumer demand and empowering passengers to make better choices. Beyond air travel, higher prices that compensate for environmental harm could be an opportunity to reinvent industries and cultivate a more mindful mode of consumption. Getting customers to pay up will undoubtedly be easier if brands follow Lufthansa's lead and sweeten the deal with a few special extras.

Related: For coffee to go, Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn pilots voluntary higher prices that cover hidden costs