Do we know the real price of cheap flights?

Jul 29, 2019

The second most polluting industry in Ireland, according to the Climate Action Plan released a few weeks ago, is transport. The plan is aggressive in it’s targets to face out diesel and petrol cars, and my mind always goes to those that can not afford and electric car.

How will higher fuel tax affect lower income families?

Imagine a young family of four, with two parents working at a rate slightly up from the minimum wage. They can’t get into the property ladder because their salaries and the standard of living does not allow them save for the required deposit. The rely in their cars to go to work because they can’t afford rent in the city and public transport outside the city is just nearly non existent.

Most their wages go on rent, petrol and child minding.

They will not be in a position to buy an electric car in the next years.

They will be even in a worse position as time goes by and carbon tax increases, putting petrol in their cars will become a luxury.

How is the new Climate Action Plan going to improve their lives? Mean time back in the ranch, Aeroplane fuel, due to an international agreement from 1944, is completely exempt from tax and duties!! WHAT???

Air travel used to be a luxury

Airline tickets used to be a luxury, I remember when I was a child, my aunt and uncle lived in London, and our family holiday every year was to fly to London to spend Christmas with them. What I treat! I was the first child in my class to get into an aeroplane when I was 5, and I remember this fact because I knew even at that young age that I was quite privilege to have that opportunity. Our summer holidays were spent in places we could reach by car or train, generally camping and immersing into nature. Those were the days some might say!

Fast forward 34 years later and now I am finding myself flabbergasted by the nonchalance of people to take a weekend shopping break in NY, or a lads weekend in Italy, and sometimes piling in 10 air trips a year into their lives.

Have we all lost the plot? I include myself on this one, don’t get me wrong, I travel and I use aeroplanes more than I should. Been from Spain and coming from a family of divorced parents I have to make two trips to Spain every single year, one to spend with my mum and one with my dad. Then I take a holiday with my husband to the sun and then I fit in a couple of work trips to London and LA every year. That is 5 international flights every year!! So when the girls say “lets take a weekend in Spain” I have to decline politely.

Whatever happen to spending a weekend with your friends in the same country as you live? Isn’t the aim of the weekend to spend time together regardless of where you are?  

The "Penny's" of the sky

Cheap air travel has boomed due to the “Pennys” of the sky’s, Ryanair, EasyJet, etc. The fact that you can buy an air fare for less than the price of a meal in a restaurant has meant that air travel is affordable for everyone. Now, this might seem like a good thing to start with, it allows everyone to travel regarding of their income. But what is the real price we are paying for cheap air travel? This is not easy to establish but lets take one example.

I took a flight from Shannon to LAX last April, this translates into 1.22 tonnes of CO2.

According to an article by John Gibbons in the Irish Times, at any given moment there are almost 10,000 passenger aircraft in the sky carrying well over a million people, 24 hours a day, every day. GO ahead and calculate how many CO2 tonnes are released into the atmosphere due to air travel.

So if the aim of our government is to reduce our Carbon Footprint should air travel not be one of the first ports of call?? It says on their Climate Action Plan that aviation is dealt with at an European level, basically they will wait for Europe to make a decision on air travel. But, did the same plan not say they had the intention to be “leaders” in the climate crisis? So what is stopping them from introducing Carbon tax to airlines?

Taxing jet fuel

According to John Gibbons article “Taxing jet fuel at a modest rate of 33 cent per litre would generate nearly €10 billion in revenue within the EU. Airline tickets are, bizarrely, VAT-exempt. Raising this to 15 per cent would bring in another €17 billion annually. Flying would become more expensive, but it is currently vastly under-priced. The current average price of a one-way airline ticket within the EU is €80. Fuel taxes and VAT would push that up to €106, according to the T&E analysis. However, that level of increase is unlikely to persuade many people to fly less often.”

It seems quite obvious to me, that taxing jet fuel and air travel would be a great revenue generator, so that the government could afford to give more grants so we can all buy those lovely electric cars, or retrofit our houses, or maybe even ensure our electricity comes from renewable sources much sooner than 2050!

There is an argument out there that cheap air travel has made society grow and become more aware of other cultures. And this is true, I don’t disagree with the fact that international travels should be affordable for everyone and not just rich people. But I also agree that an industry that is so polluting, should have Carbon Tax added to it’s fuel. How about looking at possible schemes where a person is allowed xxx air miles without the new Carbon Tax in a year, so that lower income families can still take their annual holidays, but once you reach a number of air miles in a year Carbon tax is added to your next flights? I am not an expert in this field, and I am sure a scheme like this comes associated with a lot of hassle and putting systems in place, but it is definitely worth a discussion around our policy makers table.

Until next week!


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