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Views on the news: 70 per cent of UK flights are taken by just 15 per cent of the population

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A minority of frequent flyers dominate air travel in countries with high aviation emissions

Research for climate group Possible has revealed that a tiny minority of frequent flyers dominate air travel in countries with high aviation emissions.

The report, Elite Status: Global Inequalities in Flying, collates data on flying habits in the 26 countries with the highest air travel emissions. 

It reveals that, in the UK, 70 per cent of flights are taken by just 15 per cent of the population – with 57 per cent not flying abroad at all. In the US, just 12 per cent of the population take 2/3 of all flights. 

Flying is particularly carbon intensive form of transport – if global aviation were a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters. The burning of jet fuel releases greenhouse gas emissions, and aircraft also produce other climate-warming substances – like water vapour, soot, and nitrogen dioxides. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Civil Aviation Organization predicted that by 2050 international aviation emissions could triple compared with 2015.

There are growing calls among campaign groups for a frequent flyer levy – a tax that increases the more you fly each year. The tax was backed by last year’s UK climate assembly, a project that asked the public its opinion on how the UK should reach net-zero by 2050. It’s also been publicly supported by climate groups like Greenpeace. 

Higginson says: 

“We know that climate change impacts the poorest communities disproportionately – while the benefits of carbon-intensive lifestyles are enjoyed by only a privileged few. Policies that target those who fly the most – such as a ‘frequent flyer levy’ – would be a good first step to tackling climate change in an equitable way. But we also need to do more to tackle air miles, which reward frequent fliers for flying more frequently.”

Bella Shorrock, Social Media Executive

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