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Big increase in customers paying Air NZ's carbon offset fee - but airline won't make it compulsory

Air New Zealand says the number of people choosing to pay a fee to offset the carbon of their flight has risen significantly over the past year or so.

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Head of Sustainability Lisa Daniell talks to Breakfast about the airline’s carbon offset programme. Source: Breakfast

However, company officials stopped short of explaining why they wouldn't simply offset the cost by default by building it into their fares, saying "we wanted to give customers the option of doing that".

Breakfast and 1 NEWS reported last week about the rise of "flight shaming", and about where exactly the fees for Air New Zealand's FlyNeutral scheme go.

Statistics from last year suggested only about four per cent of travellers were choosing to tick the box to pay the small FlyNeutral fee.

Speaking this morning to Breakfast, Air New Zealand's head of sustainability Lisa Daniell said that figure has now risen to 11.4 per cent.

"We have seen a real uptick in customers being willing to engage in this behaviour which is really good," Ms Daniell said.

"Carbon offsetting is relevant because it actually can make a difference - and it is making a difference in New Zealand to native forestry owners."

Ms Daniell explained that Air New Zealand doesn't make any profit from the scheme, and that all of the money goes to carbon offsetting projects in New Zealand and overseas.

Half of the carbon credit projects, all of which are either Gold Standard or Carbon Standard certified and audited, are are based in New Zealand.

Those are the NZ Native Forest Restoration Trust, Wellington City Council's Outer Green Belt, the Coatbridge Native Forest and Tempello Biodiversity Projects in Marlborough and the Owenga Reserve in the Chatham Islands.

The other half of the projects are based offshore - they are the Solar Cooking project in China, the Prony and Kafeate Wind Project in New Caledonia and the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor project in Western Australia.

"We're also looking at a range of other things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint to start with," Ms Daniell said. "Thats where we are putting most of our effort at the moment.

"Admittedly, some of those technologies are not available at scale in New Zealand. Things like sustainable aviation fuel, which we'd love to see, are impossible in this part of the world.

"In the longer term, [Air New Zealand is] looking at ways we can get carbon out of the system through things like an electric fleet, which we do think is a real possibility and something we should be looking to pursue."