How Prince Harry's Google Partnership Hopes to Change Global Air Travel

Prince Harry's eco-tourism partner Google is highlighting low carbon flight options—just a month after they teamed up.

Google Flights now lets consumers see which airlines are offering the lowest carbon planes and those that are the most polluting.

The tech giant joined Prince Harry's Travalyst initiative, which seeks to encourage sustainable tourism, in September.

While the prince and Travalyst didn't work on the latest update from Google, yesterday's announcement demonstrates the partnership could see progress in a key area where the royals have been looking to make progress for decades.

Prince Charles and Prince William have also launched their own efforts to pursue positive change for the environment.

In a blog post on October 6, Richard Holden, Google's vice president of travel products, wrote: "It's critical that people can find consistent and accurate carbon emissions estimates no matter where they want to research or book their trip.

"That's why we recently joined the Travalyst coalition, where we'll help develop an open model for calculating carbon emissions from air travel and promote standardization across the travel industry using this framework."

Through Google, air passengers can see which airlines are creating the most carbon and how much less efficient it is to fly first class than economy.

The tech giant has also launched eco certificates to help tourists choose hotels and offers eco-friendly route options on Google maps.

Omid Scobie, who wrote the Harry and Meghan Markle biography Finding Freedom, wrote on Twitter: "Google's partnership with Prince Harry's Travalyst is off to a flying start.

Google’s partnership with Prince Harry’s Travalyst is off to a flying start. The company announced today they will now report carbon emissions data for all flights. This is alongside the fuel-efficient routing options just added to ⁦⁦@googlemaps⁩.

— Omid Scobie (@scobie) October 6, 2021

"The company announced today they will now report carbon emissions data for all flights. This is alongside the fuel-efficient routing options just added to ⁦⁦@googlemaps."

Prince Harry's support for eco travel has long been controversial due to his use of private jets, which produce significantly more carbon than scheduled flights.

For example, Google Flights shows it's possible to find first class tickets from New York to Los Angeles that produce an estimated footprint of 778kg of CO2.

Prince Harry did the same journey, only to Santa Barbara, on a private Dassault Falcon 2000 after a tour of New York last month. An emissions calculator run by Paramount Business Jets puts his cabron footprint for the journey at 13,185kg, 16 times more than even a first class scheduled ticket.

However, progress through the Google partnership will be a welcome breakthrough for the company after it was caught up in a review of Harry's now defunct Sussex Royal charity.

The Charity Commission earlier this year rejected claims the organization had put the relationship between Harry and brother Prince William above the interests of the charity.

In his blog post, Holden wrote: "Beginning today, you'll see a carbon emissions estimate for nearly every flight in the search results — right next to the price and duration of the flight. So when you're choosing among flights of similar cost or timing, you can also factor carbon emissions into your decision.

"These emissions estimates are flight-specific as well as seat-specific. For instance, newer aircraft are generally less polluting than older aircraft, and emissions increase for premium economy and first-class seats because they take up more space and account for a larger share of total emissions.

"To put these estimates in context, flights with significantly lower emissions will be labeled with a green badge. And if you want to prioritize carbon impact, you can sort all of the results to bring the greenest flights to the top of the list."

Sally Davey, Travalyst's chief executive, last month said: "The Travalyst Coalition strives to leverage its collective reach and help drive mass adoption of sustainability standards. We're excited to continue this endeavour with Google as a member of the Travalyst Coalition, delivering on this unique opportunity to build positive, transformative change in travel.

"The Google travel team has committed globally to helping consumers make more sustainable travel choices, and their approach aligns strongly with Travalyst's collaboration principles."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Board Plane
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Suva Airport, in Fiji, on October 23, 2018. Harry's Travalyst eco-tourism initiative has partnered with Google Flights. Kirsty Wigglesworth - Pool/Getty Images