European executives are increasingly favouring private jets when travelling across the continent as the rise in airport security checks multiplies delays, but the flights may strike a symbolic blow against the EU's fight against greenhouse gasses.

One of Europe's biggest private jet operators - NetJets Europe - said it had undertaken almost 60,000 flights in the first 11 months of 2006, up by 30 percent on the whole of 2005, according to the Financial Times. New business schemes mean that users no longer need to have their own jet but can pay for a share in an aircraft with a guaranteed amount of flying time.

The European Commission said last week it would exempt private jets from its plans to include air travel in its carbon-reducing emissions trading scheme. "To reduce administrative costs, very light aircraft will not be covered," the commission said on Wednesday (20 December), with air transport currently the fastest-growing carbons emissions source.

The boom in private jets across Europe is likely to attract criticism from environmentalists. But private aviation companies say they tend to operate recently manufactured aircraft that use less fuel than older aircraft. Under the Kyoto climate change treaty, the EU has committed itself to reducing carbon emissions to 8 percent of 1990s level by 2012, a commitment that is currently off track.