A consumer class action lawsuit filed Tuesday claims Delta Air Lines inaccurately billed itself as the world's “first carbon-neutral airline” and should pay damages. The complaint in federal court in California alleges the airline relied on carbon offsets that were largely bogus.
Polluting companies around the world buy carbon credits to cancel out their emissions with projects that promise to absorb carbon dioxide out of the air or prevent pollution. But they've been under the spotlight in recent months with claims their benefits are exaggerated. Delta is a big customer, purchasing credits from projects including wind and solar projects in India and an Indonesian swamp forest, the lawsuit says.
The airline did not respond to a request for comment.
The case, filed by Glendale, California resident Mayanna Berrin, claims to act on behalf of anyone who flew Delta while living in the state since March 2020. It says benefits from the offsets are likely to be temporary and would have happened even without the firm's investment. For a carbon credit to be valid, it must provide a benefit that would not have happened otherwise.
Berrin argues this enabled the firm to gain market share and charge higher prices. She argues through her attorneys, Haderlein and Kouyoumdjian LLP, that she wouldn’t have bought the tickets — or would have paid less — had she known the nature of the offsets.
The passenger bought the flights at a market premium “due to her belief that by flying Delta she engaged in more ecologically conscious air travel,” the case says. The case number is 2:23-cv-04150.
Delta announced three years ago it would go carbon neutral, which means releasing no more climate-changing pollution than it absorbs, or pays to guarantee is absorbed elsewhere.
In 2021 aviation made up more than 2% of global CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.
Earlier on Tuesday, Delta, based in Atlanta, Georgia, had 672 flights in the air globally, according to FlightRadar24, which tracks GPS data pinged to satellites and receivers.
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Ed Davey, The Associated Press