By Allison Lampert and Clark Mindock
(Reuters) – Delta Air Lines is facing a proposed class action lawsuit over advertising touting the U.S. carrier as carbon-neutral, according to a complaint filed on Tuesday in California federal court.
The complaint, filed on behalf of a California resident who bought Delta tickets to engage in “more ecologically conscious air travel,” alleges violations of state consumer protection laws and laws prohibiting unfair and fraudulent business practices.
Campaigners have filed hundreds of climate change-related suits to try to accelerate the world’s shift to a low-carbon economy and fight an escalating climate crisis. They are increasingly targeting corporate green claims, often based on the voluntary purchase of carbon offsets, where companies buy credits in pollution-lowering projects to offset emissions.
Delta was not immediately available for comment.
The complaint alleges that Delta is not living up to advertising that presents the Atlanta-based carrier as “the world’s first carbon-neutral airline,” saying it leads consumers to believe Delta hasn’t been responsible for releasing additional carbon into the atmosphere.
Global airlines have committed to “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050, partly through purchasing offsets which critics say do not lower actual emissions. Airlines also use sustainable aviation fuel, made from less-polluting materials like used cooking oil, but that fuel represents a fraction of jet fuel use.
Class-action lawsuits allow claims to be brought on behalf of a larger group of people, but it can take years before a judge certifies a class action, which ensures that the group has enough in common to proceed.
Richard Marcus, professor at the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, said the case will likely be challenging for the plaintiffs and expects “vigorous resistance” to class certification.
The complaint was filed by California attorneys Jonathan Haderlein and Krikor Kouyoumdjian.
In April, a Dutch court heard a non-profit’s arguments against European carrier KLM for alleged “greenwashing” in advertisements.
(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Clark Mindock in New York. Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Aurora Ellis)