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Monday, 8 May, 2000, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Should we pay more to fly?
With low cost airlines flying us around for a fraction of the usual cost, people are taking more flights than ever. Instead of getting a train up to Scotland, many prefer the quicker and cheaper fifty-minute plane journey.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
But Friends of the Earth say air passengers should be charged higher fares for the pollution caused by planes, and take alternative means of transport where possible.
The environmental pressure group says that one return plane trip to Florida produces the same amount of pollution per passenger as the average British motorist does in a year.
Would higher fares put you off taking as many plane trips? Would losing the convenience of air travel totally disrupt your life? Tell us what you think.
Raise airline ticket prices to reflect the high cost to the environment? That's the stupidest thing I ever heard. Why don't they just focus on creating a more environmental friendly fuel source. People will stop flying when teleportation becomes a reality. And of course, that too will probably be an environmental hazard.
We should clearly add our use of air travel into our taxation. It seems to be one of our most polluting activities. But it would be much better if this were done at the government level.
Geoff Beacon, UK
Jet engines, although designed for higher power output, pulverises anything a car engine can offer in terms of efficiency, and unlike cars, planes HAVE to use Jet engines.
A Global taxation on airfares would hurt many rural areas of the world, where air travel is necessary. Wichita, where I live has the highest airfares in the USA, and as Kansas is very big and rural it is very hard for us to travel around. Here in the states we don't have decent ground transportation like in Britain. You either use your car or fly, we cannot afford to have our airfares taxed even more then it already is!
How else can we get to Europe in a hurry. The days of mailships and luxury liners are gone, and not many people have the time or inclination to spend 3 weeks on a boat anyway when one can get to London in 12/14 hours. Come on, give us a break, air travel is here to stay and the fares should come if anything to allow more people to move around the world as they please.
Chris Ward, UK
Andy Stringer, UK
I think many people are flying because it is so cheap and if prices were raised traffic would fall. For those people who have to travel, I think it is reasonable that they pay more to compensate airlines for added costs due to environmental levies.
What seems unfortunate from most of the previous comments is that the majority just doesn't seem to care about the damage planes, cars etc do to the environment. If everyone did a little bit, like getting the bus or train to work, even once a week the world would be a much cleaner place. Expecting Friends of the Earth to come up with some kind of instant solution to the problem seems pathetic and lazy given the huge problems fossil fuels have caused. Anyone who disagrees should come to central London and have a nice warm lungful of pure pollution.
Yeah. Tax domestic air travel to the max and spend the cash on our underdeveloped public transport disaster. My friends from India found our railways so bad in comparison to theirs they had to laugh and they went home full of pride.
And now I hear that the Highland and Islands ferry hero Caledonian Macbrayne is under threat. What sort of mickey mouse country is this?
It is all very well for groups such as Friends of the Earth to suggest that air travel should be curtailed, but what are the alternatives?
A journey from Aberdeen to London takes 7.5 to 8.5 hours by train while the same journey by bus would take approximately 12 hours.
Taking into consideration that the price of a flight ticket is not much more than the train, who in their right mind would choose to take the train?
Travelling by bus is not even an option. Until we see improved and faster trains on British rails, this situation will not change. Where is the British equivalent to the French high-speed train service?
Ed Bayley, USA
Once again Friends of the Earth comes up with another scare story. Yes, aircraft pollute, but so do people.
If you want to reduce the use of aircraft then let's have a realistic alternative. The railway network is overstretched and inadequate, but I suspect that Friends of the Earth will object to any extra railway building. The road network in the UK is pathetic compared to mainland Europe and despite having one of the lowest car ownership rates in Europe, we still have to suffer congestion while Friends of the Earth try to make us feel guilty.
Raising prices will simply create more profit for governments and airlines. Fuel prices have risen all over the place - Californians are in a panic over petrol costing $1.75 a gallon! But it doesn't deter anyone from driving. Similarly it will not stop people flying. I have to come back to the UK twice a year. In the summer it costs $1200 and at Xmas it costs around $600, for a thoroughly uncomfortable economy class seat. Business class is $3500 to $7000 and first class is $7500 to around $15000. If economy class seat prices were raised to $3000 I would still pay it.
Very little has been said of the economical impact that increasing airfares would have on tourism in the UK and Europe. I feel that the environmental issues should be addressed to the public transportation industry. Years ago nearly everyone took public transportation as automobiles were considered a luxury. Now with every household owning at least 1.5 automobiles, it is no wonder we have pollution. Overhaul public transportation (especially in the States ) and pollution would be greatly reduced. I, for one would much rather take a train or bus to work than fight gridlock and road rage on a daily basis.
David P, UK
Is it really so much quicker by air? Given that airports are out of town, and you also need "check-in" time, I would have thought there was little to choose between times of rail and flying between cities such as London and Edinburgh, and London and Brussels/Paris?
The train is more environmentally friendly. However rail prices need to be more "people friendly" to encourage people away from the air AND the road.
Sure a plane to Miami and back would cause as much pollution as a car in 1 year. But that's 8000 miles. I do 8000 miles a year in my car and a plane can carry 400 passengers.
Maybe everybody who needs to travel 8000 miles should drive?
Steve W, UK
Air tax is a meaningless idea from an environmental idea, for the simple reason that the extra revenue cannot be used to eradicate the pollution that is caused anyway. The only way it might work is if the revenue were poured into subsidies for our rail network, which would be difficult as so much of it is now privatised. An alternative that I would propose is the following - that European legislators get together to set strict limits on the number of flights allowed in and out of airports by individual airlines (to prevent certain airlines from monopolising the skies), with allocations distributed in much the same way as current mobile telecoms licences.
Chris Grimshaw, UK
Of course we should cut down on superfluous usage of limited fuel. Next time I travel from London to Philadelphia I plan to do my bit. I will walk to Bristol and swim across from there. Hopefully the tide won't sweep me too far off course. Who knows, I might just make it across before it's time to return to get back to work at the end of my holiday.
It is amusing to see how many people advocate travel by ship over air travel, in order to reduce CO2 emissions. Ships are by far the worst form of motorised transport in this respect.
It is also amusing to note that the environmentalists have subtly changed "Global Warming" to "Climate Change", now that satellite measurements have shown no increase in average global temperature over the last two decades.
Although I support Friends of the Earth, I do not want them to dictate to me how I should travel! British Airways has a monopoly in the UK making our air fares almost twice as much as in the USA, so before we start being charged higher air fares we need to encourage more competition from other UK airlines like British Midland, Virgin Atlantic, Air UK, and Jersey European. There is a limit to the amount of traffic Heathrow and Gatwick can hold, and this has to be a major contributor to the air, noise pollution around the capital!
I live in West Wales and it takes me 6 hours just to get to Heathrow. It would be more convenient for us Welsh travellers to have more international links to the US and Europe from Cardiff Airport rather then going to London all the time! I'm not surprised that there is environmental concern, particularly from Londoners!
I really doubt that a cent of what I'd be paying over the present price would go to environmental programs. Most likely, the airlines would invest the money into their own expansion, or anything else, no more environment-friendly or just keep it to themselves.
Prices for airline tickets have never
been so high -- they are a rip off. I
think that consumers are paying
enough in airfares. I do not believe
that higher airfares will discourage
people from flying. As prices have
increased, so have the number of
I. Steed, UK
Prices must go up in order to pay for the true cost to the environment. Bring back ships, longer holidays. It is madness to waste our energy like this
Absolutely not! Travelling costs should come down, not go up. It is already
hard enough for people to see this beautiful world of ours, the world
the environmentalists are so eager to save. By forcing people to stay
at home, future generations are going to be unaware of the beauty that
is out there and are less likely to support the cause of the "greens."
Surely the answer to the problem of global warming should be directed at the majority rather than the minority. A 747 carries around 420 people. If each passenger was to drive the distance in a car that they travel on a plane the cost to the environment would be even more severe. The answer is not to do away with flying, but to continue encouraging use of public transport, cycling and walking.
In my view, the real point of the issue is that domestic plane trips are on the increase due to falls in domestic plane fares and sky-high train fares. As long as there is a cheaper alternative to taking domestic plane journeys, people will always take it since cost is the strongest criteria for most people. Providing funds for rail transport development would go a long way to alleviate the problems. International air travel on the other hand is unavoidable. There are no other practical modes of transport for long distance travel.
I flew back yesterday from Jakarta, and I challenge any 'environmentalists' to go there and tell me that air travel is the greatest man-made evil. The air there is constantly thick from aged buses and motor rickshaws. It is time the greens changed their simplistic and erroneous policy of just trying to make Westerners feel guilty about their society, and tried instead to focus on problems that will make a more immediate impact on those in desperate need of help. Or maybe it is that those problems represent too much of a challenge for them, so they choose the easy option.
Pat van der Veer, Nova Scotia, Canada
I am distressed by the contempt for environmentalism shown by many people responding to this question. Of course there is no practical alternative to air travel for trans-oceanic flights, but technology should be devised to reduce the harm caused by these flights as has been the case for cars and other motor vehicles. I travel mostly for research, work and family purposes; it is not a frivolous extra in my life, and very much a part of a modern existence.
I wouldn't mind paying a little more if it meant I wasn't squashed for 8 hours into a space too small for me which meant I was unable to move in any direction. As for an overall increase, perhaps the airlines should reduce prices to fill the seats.
P Jeremy, England
Tax on aircraft fuel will not work because of the international nature of air travel. If we in the UK levy tax on this type of fuel, airlines will just work out a way of filling up outside the UK so that fuel purchases in the UK will reduce dramatically which in the end will mean that jobs will have to go.
So who is going to be able to control this matter on an international basis?
There may be a partial solution by increasing the size of planes and reducing the number but it will probably not make that much difference.
Being able to travel to your destination in the quickest possible way is probably the most important aspect of travel especially with regards to business travel. Yes, travel by plane has become much cheaper in recent years and as a result more flights equals more pollution but look at the levels of pollution in the cities caused by driving cars. This is an avoidable problem which should be tackled first.
I travel to the US on business, but have always felt uneasy. The only way anyone is going to listen is if the price goes up. As for domestic travel, let's have a new tax for air fuel and use it to fund the railways.
But there are many people who would never see their families abroad (some barely do as it is, the fares are already so high) if the price of a flight went up. Not to mention the jobs that would be lost if people stopped using planes.
So I suppose that members of Friends of the Earth travel by bicycle?
If you want to do something about plane pollution, you have to something about the cost of trains. A train from London to Glasgow costs almost as much as an economy flight from London to Los Angeles. Taking the train from Frankfurt to Glasgow costs twice as much, and takes almost 24 hours. In the States, you can take a 4000 km return trip for 300 euros. The UK also needs to enhance international air access to airports outside of London. This could significantly reduce the need for so many domestic flights. Until the train mess is cleaned up, you can be assured that people will vote with their wallets and take to the skies.
Pollution from air traffic is every bit as bad as from road traffic. Reducing demand by taxation will work - to a point - but ultimately folk will just have to learn that they do not have a God-given right to spoil other peoples existence just so they can have fast access to a cheap holiday. And business travellers should already know better than to travel when you can send documents electronically and/or set up a videoconference. Travel always was and always will be expensive, it is about time the travellers faced up to the real cost of it.
"and take alternative means of transport where possible" ... What are they suggesting, use of liners to the US or perhaps people should walk across.
Yes, the polluter should pay the true social and environmental costs, not just of flying but of the impact on areas where there are airports. It is only when the true cost of things is clear that people can sensible choices about how they travel.
Air travel is a fast convenient way of reaching destinations thousands of miles away and I believe that prices of air travel should continue to fall. However, we are seeing more and more people using air travel within the UK. In order to combat this we need to have a cheap, high speed rail network comparable to those in Germany, France and many other European countries.
It seems that this discussion is being sponsored by British Airways, whose market share has sharply declined since the introduction of low cost airlines.
Pollution has always existed over the region, since a number of number UK airports figure as the world's busiest airports. Regional flights do not account for more than 5% of the total air traffic over England.
What about airships? Although they may have had a bad press in the past (and the Hindenburg disaster was not due to the unstable nature of Hydrogen) they offer an economical and clean way to travel in some style.
There must be a global tax on aviation fuel in order to save the planet. In other words the polluter must pay. This simply extends the principle of the excess baggage charge which itself recognises that more weight requires more aviation fuel.
Yet another worthless FoE
statement. Who is going
to sacrifice their two weeks
in Tobago just because
FoE say that it is bad for
Simon Tompsett, UK
It would take a huge rise in airfares before considering a switch to alternative transport, especially for international trips. But the issue here ought to be to make fuel pricing the same internationally. In the UK we already pay more than anyone else for fuel (whether for cars, diesel trains or aeroplanes).
A better idea! Let's all go back to a pastoral existence, growing organic vegetables and never leaving the confines of our villages. Idiots. If the friends of the earth really wanted to do something for the planet, they should stop producing so much hot air themselves.
02 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Flight cuts urged 'for climate's sake'
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