REFILE-Elite flyers pressure United Airlines to act on climate change

Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:25pm EDT
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By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, June 10 (Reuters) - A group of United Airlines' most frequent flyers, including billionaire investor Tom Steyer, on Monday called on the big airline to stop blocking climate change actions.

United Airlines Inc has opposed "multiple efforts to curb climate change pollution, at home and abroad," the group, Flying Clean, said in a letter to Chief Executive Jeff Smisek.

Flying Clean, launched by several nongovernmental organizations seeking to reduce carbon emissions from airplanes, sent its letter ahead of United's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday in Arlington, Virginia. It had 85,000 electronic signatures including 2,700 elite frequent flyers.

"If United wants to stay competitive, it needs to take climate change seriously and act in its customers' - and the planet's - best interest," said Steyer, a former hedge fund manager turned environmental campaigner.

The letter criticized United for leading a lawsuit to fight a European law that would make airlines pay for carbon dioxide they emit on flights to and from EU airports; lobbying in the United States against emissions initiatives; and trying to reverse California's low-carbon fuel standard.

United Airlines spokeswoman Megan McCarthy disputed the claims, and said the airline is on a task force of the International Air Transport Association, an industry lobbying group seeking a global solution to airline emissions.

"The entire industry got together to say that we supported a global approach rather than a regional approach," she said.   Continued...