Plane flown almost empty to deliver newly required Covid tests

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Environmental campaigners have condemned Britain’s biggest holiday company for flying an almost empty plane over 2,750 miles on a round-trip from Birmingham to Finnish Lapland.

Plane flown almost empty to deliver newly required Covid tests
© Tui UK

Dashing to the snow: Tui flew an almost empty plane from the Midlands to Lapland and back

– Tui UK

Tui operated the flight purely to comply with the sudden change in Covid testing rules that takes effect on Tuesday.

On Saturday the government reintroduced pre-departure testing for passengers to the UK in response to concerns about the omicron variant. Travellers must take a lateral flow test on the day of departure to the UK

Tui has 2,500 clients in Finnish Lapland, with hundreds more flying out during the week.

Rather than flying out the required tests on one of the five Tui flights that operated on Monday, the company chose to fly a Boeing 737 to the Arctic and back.

The round-trip cost around £30,000 in fuel, air-traffic control and other costs, and generated around 100 tons in carbon emissions.

The company’s decision appalled campaigners for less damaging travel – including Helen Coffey, head of travel for The Independent, who has committed to flight-free travel for two years running.

She says: “It would be one thing if this service were transporting families to longed-for pre-Christmas holidays – but to pump out this amount of CO2 just to deliver Covid tests while disregarding the climate impact seems to wilfully disregard the environmental crisis we’re currently facing.”

In its Sustainability Strategy published last year, Tui said it was committed to reducing “the carbon intensity of our operations by 10 per cent”.

Tui UK’s commercial and business development director, Richard Sofer, said: “Families plan all year for their magical trips to Lapland with dreams of meeting Santa, husky sleighing and feeding the reindeer.

“It’s our job to ensure their dreams are a reality and our Christmas elves, as ever, are on hand to help make sure they experience the magical wonders of Lapland.”

The Independent has asked Tui to comment on the environmental impact of the flight.

It appears no similar missions are planned. The company said: “Guests departing for Lapland on the next Tui flight on 8 December will be reminded to purchase their tests prior to departure.”

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