Terence Blacker



A stunt that exposes the truth about corporate greed

How is this for an image which perfectly captures the greed, hypocrisy and downright silliness of the age through which we are living? A planeload of passengers flies from Norwich to Dublin. When it arrives, the travellers wait at the airport for half an hour and then re-board the plane to fly straight back. They are, in fact, not tourists or business people but actors, whose golden dream of appearing in The Bill has brought them to Norfolk’s leading (only) international airport where they will earn £82 as part of a fairly obvious scam.

Their employers are the budget airline Flybe which recently discovered that the number of passengers it had flown on a particular route out of Norwich airport would fall agonisingly short of the figure which would land a £280,000 bonus. So, using the kind of think-outside-the-box entrepreneurial flair which is encouraged and celebrated on The Apprentice, the airline finessed the figures by contacting a talent agency. This gig, the agency told its clients, was for “background work” on behalf of an airline which was “updating its in-flight literature”.

When news of this stunt leaked out, there was huffiness all round. Flybe accused Norwich airport of being greedy and intransigent when it came to paying out, or rather failing to pay out, bonuses. In response, the airport played the green card. Its managing director was “absolutely shocked” at the cost to the environment of such irresponsible behaviour. To make matters worse, this violation of the atmosphere had taken place the very weekend of Earth Hour, a global event involving the switching off of lights to mark the problem of climate change.

What makes this story so neatly contemporary is its perfect narrative symmetry. Both sides in the row emerge without the slightest credit; every public statement has been bogus in some way or other. The airline was engaged in an act of light fraudulence, similar to an employee fiddling expenses, only on a corporate scale. The airport, whose bonus scheme is specifically designed to encourage as many gas-belching jets as possible to leave its tarmac, presents itself as a campaigner for all that is green and beautiful.

When any large company bleats virtuously about the environment, it is almost always emitting an unacceptable fug of hypocritical hot air. The Government has set the tone here by combining an uncritical worship of private profit with a need to boast of its environmental credentials, putting presentation before substance at every turn, and companies have taken to playing the same double-game.

It seems that we are as morally confused about the environment as the Victorians were about sex. As a society, we are sinning more busily than any previous generation, but we prefer to avert our eyes from our own behaviour or, even better, to blame others. If we can deploy the right recycled, sustainable eco-phrase of the moment, then we can carry on pretty much as before.

So conglomerates, and their cynical advertisers, present themselves as fiscal friends of the Earth in marketing campaigns so shamelessly fraudulent that the Advertising Standards Authority has recently been obliged to call an industry summit to remind companies and marketers of their responsibilities. No matter how shamelessly profit-led a company may be, its image is likely to be enhanced by pictures of polar bears, kiddies and wind turbines. A blizzard of reassuring pseudo-science is deployed to promote everything from oil companies to supermarkets and 4x4s.

It works, of course. Goldman Sachs has reported that companies that can present themselves as ethical and green reap the benefits in their profit-margins. Developers whose grandiose plans for new towns were rejected in the past have re-packaged their proposals as eco-towns with instant success.

The message behind the grand marketing plans which so usefully conflate green and greed is aimed at us, the consumers. The Government can put out concerned public service announcements about recycling while cheerfully encouraging the expansion of airports. Industry promotes the acquisition of new products rather than repairing the old, causing a mountain of computers, mobiles, TVs and kitchen gadgets to be dumped every day.

In my part of the country, there is now only one tyre company, a small family firm, which bothers to mend punctures rather than automatically selling new tyres. Its owner would be appalled to be described as an environmentalist but, without showing off about it, he is being more ecologically responsible in his work than many of the large companies whose green credentials are often as fake as some of Flybe’s passengers to Dublin.

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  1. nigel pogmore

    on the topic of aviation, and hypocrisy get a load of this. pilot warns of passenger safety anomalies, is almost immediately dismissed, threatened, career tarnished. he warns of imminent accident, passengers killed soon after, pilot has spent the last six months in hiding. is anybody listening?

    Extract from website:-

    A licence to operate, or is it a licence to kill ?

    Having travelled the world extensively, both privately and commercially for the past 32 years ,I feel I can rightly claim to be of an adventurous nature. Back in the late 70s early 80s I was an expedition driver leader for Encounter Overland. At that time I was assigned to the London Kathmandu run. Later after moving to Australia, looking to fill the void, I got involved in commercial hot air balloon rides industry. Gaining my Australian licence in 1989 provided me with the opportunity to work in many locations around the world, Including Egypt’s and that’s the story! However out of many the crowning glory was to be invited back to Nepal to fly the only hot air balloon in the country. I spent three seasons flying over Kathmandu from 1996 to 1999. Later I would be invited back to Australia to fly a special shaped balloon, on three-year fly drive promotion for Cadbury chocolates. California and Chicago were next on the list. in 2007 I consider myself fortunate to be offered a position in the Serengeti. All went well for two years however there were safety concerns. after the same directors had experienced no less than three fatalities, I was appointed to a newly created position of safety officer. this position spelled the end of my career. Despite been previously offered a third successive one-year contract, days after submitting my concerns regarding passenger safety, I was sacked, for the reasons of course, just as well i recorded what actually took place. I had taken photographs of aircraft defects, this did not gel well with the non-pilot director. please understand that this is a UK registered company.

    Despite my best efforts, several months past without managing to bring the company to the table to resolve outstanding issues. I had no choice but to go public. I produced a website hot air balloon safety.com on which I predicted that the company would have an accident. A few weeks later…………………. well I feel that now it’s time for you to visit this link http://www.hotairballoonsafetyconcerns.com/Fatal-events-leading-up-to-Serengeti-balloon-accident.html where I explain a little bit about what happened.

    Owing to my public campaign, I’ve spent the last six months in hiding., at this time I’m facing the probability of three years in a Nepalese jail, apparently for sounding the warning of accident. I would value your support in any way possible.

    Should you like to discuss matters further, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Yours sincerely
    Nigel J Pogmore