RYANAIR'S vast fleet of aircraft is belching out almost as much carbon dioxide as the island country of Cyprus and its entire population of 1.1 million people.
The no-frills airline spewed out about 7.5 million tonnes of CO2 last year, according to a spokesman for Ryanair.
Cyprus, which is thronged with more than two million tourists a year, produces 7.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually, according to latest figures from the Environmental Assessment Agency in the Netherlands and the European Commission.
Despite its population of 85 million people and having one of the highest numbers of cattle in the world, Ethiopia burps out less carbon dioxide than Ryanair. Ethiopia's annual carbon dioxide output comes to 7.2m tonnes.
Ethiopia is not the only country with a lower carbon footprint than Michael O'Leary's Ryanair. The airline throws out about 75 per cent more carbon dioxide a year than the Bahamas — and more CO2 than Cameroon, Georgia or Moldova.
Asked if the airline's carbon footprint was high given the statistics, the spokesman said: "Ryanair emits the lowest level of C02 per passenger of any European airline.
Ryanair also operates the greenest, cleanest fleet of aircraft, with an average age of less than five years." Ryanair uses about a third of the fuel some other airlines do to transport an average passenger one mile, according to a recent report by the US sustainability technology company, Brighter Planet.
The report, which compared the fuel efficiency of 20 airlines across the world, including American Airlines, British Airways and easyJet, described Ryanair as "the cleanest" airline "by passenger volume".
"From a business perspective, as well as an environmental one, this is non-trivial," the report said. "Higher efficiency is a boon that allows airlines to pass financial and environmental savings on to their customers." The tens of millions of Ryanair passengers who cough up for baggage charges when checking in luggage each year might not agree that these savings are being passed on to them. It can cost up to €280 to check in a standard 20kg bag for a return Ryanair flight during the summer.
Earlier this month, Mr O'Leary said he would continue to increase charges for checked baggage until passengers stop bringing luggage to go into the hold. He also warned charges for carry-on bags would be inevitable.
Last June, Ryanair confirmed it had ordered 175 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft in a deal worth €11.5bn.
Expected to create more than 3,000 jobs, it was Boeing's largest aircraft order from a European airline – and Ireland's biggest ever industrial order, says Ryanair.