Tempted to upgrade to first class on your next flight? You might be interested to learn that the switch would increase your carbon footprint for that trip by six times. A new working paper from the World Bank calculates that since airlines allocate so much additional space to customers in first and business class, that it actually uses more fuel to move them -- particularly if there are empty seats in those sections.
Additionally, the paper considered that first-class passengers also tend to bring more luggage with them on flights. Other factors also come into play, including the length of the trip, relative passenger weight, and the aircraft's efficiency. Though these may be difficult to control for, the table below helps to show the difference in the carbon footprint of passengers in different classes relative to that of an average passenger.
The World Bank did not produce this study with the sole intent of guilt-tripping first- and business-class travelers. Rather, the paper was commissioned partly in an effort for the organization to determine how to reduce its own carbon footprint - since air travel makes up a sizable portion of it. According to the group's analysis, it cut its carbon footprint by around 20,000 tons between 2009 and 2012 simply by eliminating first-class travel for its employees.
Photos: World Bank, Andy Mitchell