The government’s responsibility is to tackle the climate crisis, not to bail out failing airlines

If a company is badly managed or has failed to charge economic prices for its services, it is not the Treasury’s job to pick up the bill

Tuesday 14 January 2020 21:45 GMT
Even with air passenger duty, air travel is undertaxed
Even with air passenger duty, air travel is undertaxed (Aiden Gill)

Serious environmental campaigners, including this title, have always accepted that effective action to minimise climate change involves hard choices. And here, surprisingly soon after an election campaign in which green rhetoric seemed a cost-free add-on for all politicians, was a hard choice: Flybe, the budget airline, was in trouble and seemed to expect the government to bail it out with public money.

The short answer to this kind of request ought to be “no”. The longer answer ought to be to recognise the negative effects on Flybe employees and on the economies of some of the peripheral parts of the country that are served by the airline. If necessary, the government could take some action to mitigate these effects. But as for using public money to ease the financial position of a private-sector business, the answer should still be “no”.

That longer answer could go on to say that in no circumstances should the answer be to cut air passenger duty for the airline industry as a whole. It is hard to detect whether this outrageous idea came from the company or from the government side in the discussions – but it should be dumped and disposed of, and then forgotten, forthwith.

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