Leading article: The true cost of cheap flights


The budget airline revolution is showing no signs of slowing. On 4 July EasyJet will offer its customers the opportunity to fly from Glasgow to Marrakech. This will be the first time a budget carrier has offered a flight outside of Europe

In the past decade, cheap flights have resulted in millions more of us making trips by air to European destinations. The budget airlines are now likely to have a similar impact on visits to destinations outside Europe too. There is no reason to believe that EasyJet's ambitions stop in Morocco. And given the highly competitive nature of the budget sector, other carriers are likely to follow.

This is deeply concerning from an environmental perspective. The boom in European air travel generated by cheap carriers is already threatening to wreck our attempts to bring climate change under control. Britons are forecast to take 101 million foreign trips by 2020. The continued expansion of budget airlines means that we are likely to hit this target even sooner. And if people are to be travelling greater distances, there will be a corresponding increase in carbon emissions.

If ever there was a time for the international community to give serious consideration to some form of global tax on air travel, it is now - before this new trend sets in. Yet it would be wrong for governments to penalise cheap flights alone, since this would hit primarily the less well off. Such a levy should affect all air passengers equally. A tax on airline fuel is the obvious solution. The fact that the airline industry has been allowed to operate for so long paying no tax on their fuel is a scandal. With no incentives to conserve fuel or cut pollution, it is little wonder that the airlines are responsible for such a high proportion of the world's carbon emissions.

France proposed a tax on aviation fuel at last year's G8 summit in Gleneagles. And the proposal won support of 66 countries at a United Nations meeting last year. This is an idea that cannot be resisted forever, particularly as the drastic affects of climate change become ever more apparent to us.

Governments and consumers alike must adopt a more responsible view of air travel. No one would argue that we ought to return to the days when only the rich could afford to fly. But there needs to be some recognition of the damage that each flight does to our environment.

Cheap foreign air travel is undeniably an attractive and liberating thing. But it comes at a price. And it is time that we began paying it off ourselves, rather than leaving the bill for future generations.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own