Taxing frequent flyers

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Following an investigation by the Guardian, it seems that the top 10% of frequent flyers are responsible for over 50% of all the airline tickets. The top 1% is responsible for about 10% of all flights.

is the proposed levy workable?

Consequently, and because of concerted efforts to reduce the number of flights people take and thus lower airline emissions, a suggestion has been made to make those frequent flyers pay a carbon offset fee.

Cynics will immediately say that this is yet another attempt to introduce a tax and they may be right. Others will say that climate change is so threatening that anything that might reduce emissions should be tried.

But will a carbon offset tax have the intended aim in reducing the number of flights people take. And at what number of flights does someone become a frequent flyer? Is it two return flights, six or a dozen? Should such a tax occur when there is no alternative to a flight?

The suggestion is that everyone should be allowed one free return trip per year and then the levy would kick in.

As I wrote earlier this year, when Ken Clarke, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced APD as an environment tax it did little to stem passenger numbers. Increasing the tax payable also did little so a tax or levy may not be the answer unless it is draconian. What might deter people is having to pay the same price of the ticket as a levy but the impact on jobs and destination economies would be heavy.

The government consultation period on a tax ended earlier this week.

Why not just deal with the situation – as I have mentioned before – by setting a deadline where the only planes than can fly are electric ones? If the governments can legislate to abolish petrol and diesel fuelled cars so that only electric ones are sold why cannot they do the same in aviation?

We know that electric planes are being developed so such legislation would spur engineers on. In the meantime governments could assist by disallowing short haul flights 9Except those where links are needed across seas) of something like 300 miles and relying on train and coach travel to do the work. That would at least be some justification for HS2 and HS3 in the UK. At the same time, tickets that combine rail and flight (so passengers could get to hub airports like Heathrow and Gatwick) whereby the rail part of the ticket is heavily subsidised so people would useful those rather than drive. Such a move should also justify infrastructure improvements so that movement could be faster.

But such a solution requires joined up thinking and that seems to be beyond many politicians and, when it comes down to it, it is politicians that will decide. It is a thought to give them something to do after Brexit is over.

On second thoughts, let’s not wait that long!

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