When the CEO of airline Ryanair turned up to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, to protest flight disruption as a result of strikes, he probably didn’t anticipate being covered in cream cake.
Michael O’Leary brought a cardboard cut-out of Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and stood outside of the organization’s headquarters to deliver a statement before handing in a petition and holding a press conference about the issue.
O’Leary wants better protections for airlines and passengers who are impacted as a result of air traffic control strikes in Europe.
However, a different protest about the pollution caused by air travel awaited him as he began talking to the media, with two people smothering the CEO in cream cake.
In a video captured by the Guardian, the protestors shouted, “Stop the pollution of the f****** planes!” before covering him in confectionery, and O’Leary tried to laugh off the incident before returning to his own mission.
He would not comment on the actions of the protesters, other than to say the cake was “delicious.”
Air traffic control protests aren’t the only thing grounding the world’s planes. Extreme weather events are resulting in flights being disrupted or canceled worldwide. CBS used Flight Aware data to report that 20,000 flights were delayed in one week alone in late July.
For example, scientists from Switzerland are investigating using carbon dioxide and water pulled from the air in conjunction with solar energy to produce “solar kerosene” that can be used to power a plane. Such a process will only produce as much pollution as it takes in to make the fuel in the first place.
Meanwhile, in England, a “green hydrogen” plane capable of carrying 19 passengers took flight in January 2023, demonstrating that zero-pollution commercial flights could be achievable if the technology is scaled up.
According to Our World in Data, using figures from 2018, aviation accounts for 2.5% of the world’s total carbon pollution, which traps heat in the atmosphere and leads to higher temperatures.
With that in mind, maybe O’Leary should be more concerned by the flights that are taking place rather than the ones that aren’t.
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