Green screens

27 March 2007


A Blue Perspective: Green screens

Today, while I was booking a flight to Sydney with Virgin Blue, I noticed a new ad on their site promoting a feature called Carbon Offset. I'd heard about being carbon neutral before, but had thought it was only something that Beverly Hills vegans could afford, so I decided to have a click and see what they had to offer.

Carbon Offset turned out to be a new service from Virgin Blue that allows you to offset the amount of greenhouse gases produced whenever you take one of their flights. Whether you consider carbon offsetting to be effective or not, it's a great show of support for environmentally friendly practices by the airline, especially for a service which is one of the most environmentally damaging things that an individual can partake of. I was particularly surprised by the cost of offsetting. In my case, the price for offsetting a return flight from Melbourne to Sydney was $1.47. I'd have thought it'd be upwards of thirty dollars.

The only downfall I can see with Virgin Blue's system is the fact that the Carbon Offset payment has to be done through an entirely different system – you have to pay separately from the actual flight, after you've received your itinerary, and you have to re-enter all your details again. I think it would have a far greater impact if there was a big bold checkbox at the end of your flight choice saying "I would like to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of my flight". The server could go off and calculate the cost of the offset when you press submit, then display the price on the confirmation page before you finalise your credit card details.

With that sort of workflow the issue would be brought to the attention of customers in a much more pointed fashion, and they wouldn't have to go out of their way to save the environment, so you'd get a much higher conversion rate.

I know that it might (minimally) interrupt the flow of the actual airline ticket purchase, but I think that's a small price for Virgin to pay if they're truly committing to environmentally sound practices.

All that's a minor gripe, though. Virgin Blue should be congratulated for their efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions, and I'm sure they'll make improvements to the system as it becomes more mature.


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  1. 1/9

    Walker Hamilton commented on 27 March 2007 @ 01:23

    Generally, I have found that things like that are not added into payment systems because:

    1. The system _must always_ work so that they can sell tickets.
    2. The system is full of old terrible code so it's hard to add something like that into the flow without breaking things.
    3. The site dev. team and marketing don't see eye top eye.

    Oh well....

  2. 2/9

    Walker Hamilton commented on 27 March 2007 @ 01:24


    "eye to eye"

    I wish more blog systems came with comment editing....

  3. 3/9

    David McDonald commented on 27 March 2007 @ 08:19

    What a great idea from Virgin Blue. They haven't promoted it much yet, as I had never heard of it before either.

  4. 4/9

    Lucas Chan commented on 27 March 2007 @ 11:01

    'I think it would have a far greater impact if there was a big bold checkbox at the end of your flight choice saying "I would like to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of my flight".'

    Yes, yes, yes, yes.

  5. 5/9

    Phil Oye commented on 27 March 2007 @ 17:02

    The compromise would be to put the big checkbox on the confirmation page after completing the transaction.

    That ensures that they collect their flight revenue and book the seat, yet makes it easy for users to offset.

    Everyone wins.

  6. 6/9

    Greeny commented on 27 March 2007 @ 21:48

    When you select your seat when you check in, I'd like to see all of the seats that "aren't green" so we can heckle them mid-flight.

  7. 7/9

    The Man in Blue commented on 27 March 2007 @ 22:45

    Sit in front of them and recline wayyyyyyy back.

  8. 8/9

    Lars commented on 28 March 2007 @ 18:42

    IMHO This system will only "neutralize" bad consciousness of travelers. But what will neutralize CO2 gas emissions is only flying less. Re-thinking the economic growth model...

  9. 9/9

    Cameron Hepburn commented on 3 April 2007 @ 08:41

    Offsetting is a useful way to encourage people to begin to face up to the costs of their actions (although current prices are too low), and to raise awareness of climate change. The economic logic is pretty simple. You probably don't make your own milk, because others are more experienced at running farms and milking cows, so you do what you are good at and then buy milk. Same deal with a safe climate - you trade your services with others who can reduce emissions more effectively.

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