This extraordinary story of an airline filling flights with actors to win a huge bonus was given to us by an anonymous tipster who was concerned by the environmental impact.

We immediately got in contact with the Mail on Sunday who ran the story on page seven.

The story was followed up and appears in many of last week's national newspapers.

Read the full story below.

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An environmental row has erupted after a budget airline advertised for budding actors to fill empty seats on superfluous flights in order to meet strict passenger quotas.

Flybe put on eight additional flights between Norwich and Dublin this weekend so that it did not miss out on a £280,000 rebate.

An advert on the website, a recruitment site for extras in films and television shows, offered £82 a day, stating:

"Extras aged 16+ needed for paid work flying to Dublin. You will be boarding an aircraft and flying to Dublin and then flying back into Norwich Airport."

Sources at Norwich Airport said that in a desperate bid to boost passenger numbers before the end of the financial year tomorrow, Flybe had laid on extra aircraft to make 11 flights from Norwich to Dublin this weekend instead of its usual three.

Flybe pays Norwich Airport a substantial sum to operate its services, but as part of the deal it qualifies for a rebate if it meets passenger quotas.

But Flybe was 172 short of its 15,000 annual target on the Dublin route.

According to airport officials, many of Flybe's last-minute passengers will land at Dublin, leave the plane and enter the terminal, then wait for the next flight straight back to Norwich.

Richard Jenner, managing director of Norwich Airport, said: "These extra flights are taking place because there's a significant financial advantage to Flybe if it achieves a certain number of passengers by the end of the financial year.

"We're very concerned, surprised and shocked about the way Flybe is approaching this.

"We're also concerned about the environmental impact. We are not happy about this."

Flybe boasts on its website that it is "at the forefront of efforts to reduce the environmental impact of air travel". The airline admitted last night that it was short of its target on the Norwich–Dublin route and that failure to meet passenger quotas would cost it £280,000.

A Flybe spokesman said Norwich Airport's "ridiculous, intransigent and downright greedy attitude" had forced it to lay on extra flights to meet the quota.

He added: "We are not prepared to put jobs and services at risk and therefore, with regret, we've taken the unusual step of putting on extra flights to meet the demands of Norwich Airport."

The spokesman admitted Flybe had advertised for actors to fill seats but had decided not to use any.

Anita Goldsmith, senior transport campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "This is complete lunacy. Aviation is the fastest-growing source of climate change emissions yet the industry cannot regulate itself to act responsibly.

"A situation where airlines have to fly more to cut costs is ridiculous."

Tony Bosworth, transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, added: "If it is putting on extra flights, not charging for tickets and still ending up better off, then this underlines the crazy economics of the airline industry."

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