Frequent flyers: 90% of domestic flights taken by 2% of people, according to new research

Majority of Brits back banning UK flights where train could be used instead

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 10 November 2021 09:50 GMT
Going places? A Flybe Embraer 195
Going places? A Flybe Embraer 195 (Flybe)

Some 90 per cent of domestic flights in the UK were taken by just 2 per cent of English flyers in 2019, new analysis of government data has revealed.

Climate charity Possible went through figures from the Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey 2019 and data from the Civil Aviation Authority’s 2018 passenger survey to get a clearer picture of the domestic aviation market, also discovering that the typical domestic flier earns twice the national average salary.

By contrast, around nine in 10 people in the UK never take any domestic flights at all.

It follows the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement that Air Passenger Duty, the UK tax on flights, would be cut on domestic services from April 2023.

“We warned the government that cutting Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights while hosting a crucial climate conference would go down like a lead balloon,” said Leo Murray, director of innovation at Possible.

“This new analysis shows that this tax cut makes even less sense than first feared. Effectively all of the benefits will go to reward the tiny number of wealthy households responsible for almost all of the environmental damage from domestic flights, incentivising them to fly even more often, mostly on routes that could easily be travelled by train.”

The majority of the British public are in favour of aviation reforms, according to a poll of conducted on behalf of Possible during the first week of COP26.

Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 58 per cent said they would support increasing tax on domestic flights and using the money to fund green transport alternatives.

Meanwhile, 54 per cent of people supported a ban on domestic flights which could reasonably be substituted by a train – for example, the Glasgow-London journey that Boris Johnson chose to make by private jet during the climate conference.

Alethea Warrington, campaigner at Possible, said: “Our new polling finds that once again the British public are far ahead of the government when it comes to their appetite for meaningful climate action.

“What most of us need and want is an affordable, reliable train service so we can travel without harming the climate.

“The government should begin phasing out domestic flights for journeys which can be made by train, and use a frequent flyer levy to raise money to support green transport instead.”

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