I was in Vancouver on Friday, heading back home after a week on site. I was already cutting it fine to get to the airport and I was held up a little by Greta Thunberg heading a climate action march / rally.
The event reminded me of articles I'd read earlier in the week stating that -
- Brits make more flights than people from any other nation
- There is a call to ban air miles and associated schemes as they promote unnecessary air travel
- Calls to tax frequent flyers. A small percentage of the population make a large percentage of the flights
- Lewis Hamilton is having grave misgivings about his impact on the environment and has gone veggie and will be selling his private jet
#1 surprised me a little - I expected the US to have a higher percentage of flights. On #3, this article claims that 70% of UK flights are made by just 15% of the population, with 57% of the population making no foreign trips by air. Also covered here.
On #2, personally I don't think that air miles promote people to make unnecessary trips, but they do promote brand loyalty. A colleague of mine met me for a meeting out on the west coast and took 3 flights to my 2 just so he could keep with his favored airline and get points or other benefits. I guess that this may lead to more miles being flown than otherwise might be the case. That said, if you are a frequent flyer and are just under a threshold to get or retain lounge access, I can see the attraction in making an extra flight for such privileges. I fly a lot, but it is always in the cheapest seat going. There was a period where I got lounge access with BA and fairly frequent upgrades as a result - when you are spending so much time at airports (often in your own time rather than company time) it can make a big difference to the experience.
On #4, it is interesting now that the celebs (including royalty) are getting called out for their hypocrisy on their enviro positions while still taking lots of high-carbon emitting flights on private jets. That hasn't stopped the likes of Hamilton continuing to speak out on the issue and to pledge to reduce their emissions.
Back to #3. I've just gone through my diary and totted up my travel for the year. I was a bit surprised to see that by the end of the year I will have passed 60k miles in the air. This wasn't a typical year for me (my annual mileage dropped significantly when I moved to the US so I didn't have to do the 6-7 trips across the pond a year that I used to do). About 18k of the miles were trips back home (that I would have otherwise not made) because of the illness and subsequent death of my dad. That leaves about 12k of personal miles (a trip to LA / Vegas and a trip back to the UK to see family for Christmas) and about 30k of business miles.
It would be interesting to see how any sort of taxation system would work given that, like many other people who fly, it is for work purposes rather than for pleasure. Also, there would be issues around taxation jurisdiction and collection. I'm sure that Mike (Croc) and a few others on here would face a hefty tax bill if they were taxed on the amount of miles they flew in a year.
Flights have the ability to make the world a smaller place and in so doing have a positive knock-on economic impact upon economies around the world in terms of hotels, restaurants etc. that make their money off globe-trotters and weekend city-breakers alike. But do the economic and social positives outweigh the impact that flights are having on the climate? Should aero fuel be taxed or, as the articles above indicate, should frequent flyers pay more than the people who just make the occasional trip? Is it time to get rid of air miles to see if that leads to a drop in (unnecessary) flights?