Much has been made of the climate change protests recently, not only in London, but the world over.
Some talk has been made about taxing the most frequent flyers the highest. There has generally been quite a bit of so called “flight-shaming” going on in the press.
Well, for me at least, I won’t be shamed into staying at home. Or priced out of it for that matter. And here’s why:
That Plane Will Take-off Whether I’m On It Or Not.
That’s right. I could think that I’m saving the planet by staying home. But the reality is, that flight to Geneva I was looking at taking but figured I’d give a miss will be heading off anyway, whether I’m on it or not. And the chances are, the seat I was going to buy would be bought by someone else. Sure you could argue that if everyone was flight-shamed into staying at home, then the plane wouldn’t go. But I’ve been on many flights that have had just a handful of people on. Besides, the frequent flyer tax will only apply to UK departures.
If the aircraft was owned by Swiss, then how would it get back to Geneva? The airline would be forced to fly the aircraft back empty if everyone had been flight shamed into travelling by alternate means.
There’s People Who Fly Way More Than Me Anyway
Ok, so I fly a lot. Way more than the average person. And none of it is for business. However, there’s a load of people who fly a LOT more than I do. Some for pleasure. But then there’s the business flyers who rack up quite literally millions of miles. If the big corporations are paying for their employees to fly all over anyway, whats another few quid in taxes going to do? And from the leisure flyers perspective, again, in my situation, I will pay to do what I enjoy doing. The only difference being is that I may have to get a little more creative with my routings. Which leads me on to my next point.
There’s Ways To Bend The Rules
Surely anyone who reads this site has heard of an Ex-EU trip. I’d imagine most would have even done more than a few.
For those who don’t know, it goes back to the UK tax situation mentioned above. By starting a ticket outside the UK, you’ll avoid paying the higher tax rate for your flight. The first multi-flight trip I took involved me flying to Paris, to turn around and come straight back to London and carry on to Washington. I can’t remember the exact figures now but I paid for the initial Heathrow-Paris flight with Avios, meaning it made the trip cheaper.
If the UK introduces a frequent flyer tax, then there will be loopholes just like this open up. Take the train to Paris/Brussels and start your trip there for example. Even if it does involve flying straight back to the UK and carrying on.
Whilst this might not be practical for business flyers, if they’re putting their costs on the company card anyway, then it wont be a direct hit for them in any case.
People Will Pay Anyway
When the UK government wanted people to stop smoking, they put the taxes up. Whilst this likely led to a number of people either quitting or not taking it up in the first place, many people still smoke. Similar can be said when they wanted to curb binge drinking. Yet go to any town centre in the UK on a Friday or Saturday night and it will hardly be a ghost town. Another example is the recently introduced sugar tax. Yet how many of you still pay for the full blown CocaCola as opposed to Diet Coke?
The point is, if people enjoy doing something then they will carry on regardless of how much its taxed.
I enjoy flying, so I will carry on doing it.
The UK Is A Drop In The Ocean
I feel the same way about many environmental issues. Single use plastic. Green energy. And now taking more flights than needed.
The UK is tiny in comparison to the likes of The USA and China. So by all means bring in these measures, but on a global scale will it make all that much difference?
On a trip to Atlanta in 2018, I was in a supermarket. I bought three items and the cashier gave me six plastic bags. Each item was double bagged. Yet come to the UK and you’ll be hard pushed to find a restaurant that gives you a plastic straw.
So the same can be applied to flying. Even if the UK closed all its airports and banned flying completely, on a global scale I doubt it would make too much of a hit.
Modern Aircraft Are More Efficient
Ever seen pictures or film of an aircraft taking off in the 1970’s? You probably would have noticed a load of black smoke trailing behind it on takeoff. Head down to the airport these days and do you think you’ll see the same? Rarely, if ever.
This is because in recent years, the airlines have been investing in more fuel efficient aircraft.
Although the chances are this isn’t for the good of the environment. Fuel is expensive, so the more they can save, the more bonus the shareholders get at the end of the year.
Prime example being British Airways and their Boeing 747 fleet. They were well on their way out until the price of fuel dropped. Now, they’re hanging around for a few more years…
The Airlines Will Adapt
I guess this could tie in with the bending the rules section above. Like passengers, the airlines will adapt to any new rulings too. Quite how that will be, I don’t know. But if passenger numbers drop off dramatically, then they will have to do something.
Maybe drop the base fare price? Or even ditch the ever mysterious “Carrier imposed surcharge”.
Where Do The Taxes Go?
So this huge amount of APD that the UK Government collects on every flight. Where does it go? Investment in cleaner airports? Incentives for UK airlines to buy cleaner aircraft? Research into other green technologies? Nope. It goes into the general tax pot. So whats to say the frequent flyer tax will be any different? Even if you do decide to pay the frequent flyer tax and think that you’ve done your bit to offset the emissions by contributing… sorry. The chances are the extra taxes you’ve paid will be spent on repaving the M25, the new sports hall on the local school or even keeping the inmates at the local prison fed.
Sometimes Flying Is The Only Practical Way
Sure, taking the train is an option. But say you live in London and work in New York? A bit of a commute I know, but its feasible. You’d likely want to go home for the weekend to see the family. Well, the only realistic way to do that is to jump on one of the many daily flights between the two cities.
Although you could argue that if a job is worth commuting to New York for, then the chances are it pays well enough for you to absorb any tax increases.
My point remains though. Between the UK and Europe, it is possible to take a train. Much further and it becomes impractical unless you have many weeks to spare. Which once more takes me back to my earlier point. Take the Eurostar to Paris or Brussels and hop on a plane there if you don’t want to be charged.
I suppose this entire article is my thoughts!
But I can’t see anything happening with this for at least a few years. Lets face it, the UK government has got enough on their plate at the moment.