Doug Gollan writing for Forbes – Reports
According to her Twitter profile, Abigail Disney is an “Emmy-winning documentary producer and director. Professional noodge. happy camper.” At least some of that is probably a direct result of being the granddaughter of The Walt Disney Company co-founder Roy O. Disney and her inheritance, which gives her an estimated net worth of $120 million. She says she has given away over $70 million to charity, so good for her. She is not against indulging. In 2019, she told The Cut, “I really love a very good meal at very good restaurants and a very good bottle of wine. I really love a beautiful pair of shoes, and I’ll spend way too much money on that, or a purse.” In that same interview, she made clear she is no fan of private jets, although she used them for a significant portion of her 60-plus years. She said, “My dad’s plane was a 737, and it was insane to have a 737 as a private airplane. It had a queen-sized bed with one big, long seatbelt across it and a shower, and it was ridiculous. We would use the plane occasionally because I have four kids, so it was much easier, obviously, to ride on my dad’s plane with them.”
A couple of days ago, she started pontificating about the value of private jets again. “I’d like to just elaborate on the private jet thing for a moment. Private jets are a cancer. I’m sorry and I know and love lots of people who ride around in them. But I also occasionally fly biz class and I fail to see what is so hard about that,” she tweeted.
Her angst about private jets is based on their environmental impact. “The moment for me, when I decided I couldn’t fly in (my father’s private jet) anymore, was about 20 years ago. I had to fly out to California for a meeting, but I had to get back to New York by the next morning for a conference. And the guy who ran our family’s company put me on the 737 alone. I flew across the country overnight, by myself on that giant plane, and I was sitting there thinking about the carbon footprint and the number of flight attendants and the other pilot on-call and what it was costing, and I just wanted to be sick. By the way, my parents always made fun of the fact that I thought it was terrible and awful because they were very comfortable with what they were doing,” she said, according to The Cut interview.
Well, here’s some good news in case Ms. Disney is open to facts
Private aviation is responsible for just 2% of aviation’s total carbon output, and aviation is just 2.1% of overall human-induced carbon emissions, meaning that private jets emit 0.04% of global human-induced CO2 emissions. The industry, which has been working to reduce carbon output for nearly 15 years, has pledged to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Sustainable aviation fuel, which can cut carbon emissions by up to 80% is becoming more widely available, and where it isn’t available, it can still be purchased through a process called book and claim. Moreover, there are ways today to not only offset carbon emissions but additional climate-impacting output from your private flights.
However, Ms. Disney’s view of private aviation is perhaps a bit jaded from the perspective that the type of big jets she is familiar with represent less than 1% of the industry. In fact, the vast majority of private jets are so small that her great uncle Walt at 5 feet, 10 inches tall, would need to duck. Of course, they are not meant to fly an heiress cross country. Ms. Disney lives in a place where she can fly virtually anywhere in the world nonstop from her local airport; however, many of the people she used to fly over on dad’s private 737 don’t.
While the airlines serve less than 500 airports in the U.S., private jets can access over 5,000 airports. According to No Plane No Gain, 80% of business aircraft are flown into airports in small towns and communities and 42% have little or no airline service. Perhaps she missed that airlines have been cutting flights to smaller markets. However, it’s the same for many users of large jets, who fly between places where a 12-hour nonstop flight would require two days and multiple flights using the airlines.
Based on her philanthropy, I do believe Ms. Disney probably cares a lot about people in need, so it is worth noting private jets are on the front line of humanitarian relief after natural disasters, from hurricanes to earthquakes. Private jets make over 15,000 flights a year for humanitarian reasons, often delivering first responders and lifesaving supplies where there is no airline service and to places typical airlines can’t access. They also play a critical role in organ donor flights, where minutes matter, and the same private jets Ms. Disney calls a “cancer” deliver lifesaving organs to transplant recipients. For example, hearts can only be out of the body for four hours, according to GrandView Aviation, a charter operator which has completed over 1,500 of these types of flights in the past 15 years. Groups like Corporate Angel Network and AeroAngel work with operators and owners of private jets to use spare seats and repositioning flights to fly sick children for medical treatments.
Private jet users also help support jobs in rural economies. Like her penchant for expensive meals, handbags and shoes, the large sums spent by private flyers when they travel enable folks to make a living without living in a big city with big city expenses.
Ms. Disney told The Cut, “If I were queen of the world, I would pass a law against private jets, because they enable you to get around a certain reality. You don’t have to go through an airport terminal, you don’t have to interact, you don’t have to be patient, you don’t have to be uncomfortable.”