Common Error No. 85


85. "Curbs on budget airlines are needed to protect the environment."

ryanair.jpg Budget air flights emit a tiny fraction of the CO2 and other 'greenhouse gases' that are put out from all sources.  They are insignificant compared to the emissions of agriculture, road transport and power generation.  The problem is that these make very difficult targets for NGOs to pick upon because we cannot do without those big three, whereas they feel free to call budget air flights an unnecessary luxury.

NGO spokespersons usually gloss over the minor contribution of budget airlines to total pollution by describing the emissions from air transport as the "fastest growing" source.  If this is true it is only because they start from such a low base.  Even at the highest estimates for the growth of air traffic by the mid-century, analysts calculate their contribution might rise from 1.5 percent of the total to about 3 percent.

In fact budget airlines generally emit less per passenger than the established airlines.  This is because they typically fly with a higher load capacity, flying more people for the same fuel.  Even without the punitive taxes demanded by eco-lobbyists, airline passengers already pay very high taxes which in many cases cost more than the ticket itself does.

Budget airlines have made air travel no longer an exotic prerogative of the rich, but have made it accessible to ordinary people, with all of the opportunities this presents.  Critics deride 'holidays in the sun,' but neglect to point out the opportunities people now have to visit and explore foreign cities and to experience for a time the cultures of other nations.  The more that people know about other peoples and places, the more rich their own life is likely to be.

The responsible way forward is not to make air travel once again something only the rich can afford, but to develop the technologies that can make it cleaner and more efficient.