Air miles should be axed to deter frequent fliers, advises report

Air miles schemes should be axed as they encourage jet-setters to take extra flights in a bid to maintain “privileged traveller status”, according to a report commissioned by the government’s climate change advisers.

An “escalating Air Miles Levy” should also be introduced to rein in the number of trips taken by frequent flyers without penalising those taking an annual holiday, with the income raised to be invested into low-carbon aviation technology.

The recommendations, contained in a report commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), are aimed at restricting the 15% of the UK population it said were responsible for taking 70% of flights. By comparison, half the country does not fly at all in a given year.

“The norm of unlimited flying being acceptable needs to be challenged and, as a very highly polluting luxury, it is suitable to taxation,” the report read. It adds that those who pollute most “could easily afford to pay more”.

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It is estimated there are hundreds of frequent flyer schemes operating worldwide and so the ban would likely affect millions of customers. “Introducing restrictions to ‘all-you-can-fly’ passes and loyalty schemes which offer air miles would remove incentives to excessive or stimulated flying,” the report states.

Another policy suggestion calls on aviation companies to advertise their emissions in an easy-to-understand manner, for example as a proportion of an average annual household’s output, so that customers could make informed decisions.

The report, by Dr Richard Carmichael of Imperial College London, goes beyond aviation policies to consider a range of other lifestyle changes the public must make to tackle the climate crisis.

These include reduce meat and diary consumption, trading cars for bikes, and swapping gas boilers at home for electric alternatives.

Surface transport accounts for the biggest proportion of a household’s carbon footprint at 34%, followed by diet (30%), home heating (21%) and aviation (12%).

Regulations should be introduced to require all schools to offer pupils at least one plant-based meal option and food packaging should display a “traffic light” system indicating its carbon footprint.

Domestic travel recommendations include dropping prices on intercity rail services to reduce demand for cars and planes, and re-opening disused rail lines.

The report also recommends VAT on the installation of insulation and low-carbon heating systems be removed.

The UK is the world’s first major economy to legally commit to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

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