A UK climate panel recommends people:
- eat less meat and dairy (cow flatulance, and food consumption vs. yield)
- start biking more (but this ignores the need to replenish calories which can exceed energy consumption used in driving and ignores that when you drive less and reduce congestion you may encourage others to drive more)
- and end frequent flying.
“Air miles schemes should be axed” because customers take mileage runs to keep elite status and more broadly “encourage excessive flying” and people should be taxed for flying, and taxed more the more that they fly.
In other words only the wealthy should be able to afford to fly. The tax would be lighter on infrequent travelers, although they wouldn’t be able to use rewards to afford travel. By the way this is also the view of Lufthansa’s CEO because it would put his low cost competitors out of business.
The report recommends that flight ads “include information about their emissions expressed in a simple way to make people think about the impact on the climate of their trips” and that the frequent flyer tax be based on distance (United take note!).
Eliminating a rebate is just a price increase. Airlines, earning a higher rate of return from flying, will either:
- Offer more flights, because flying is more profitable. That’s the exact opposite of climate activists would want.
- Find other ways to rebate to customers to compete for their business. At one point, when prices were fixed (at an intentionally high level) by the Civil Aeronautics Board, the CAB discussed potential regulation of the thickness of onboard sandwiches, because carriers were finding a non-price way to compete for passenger business. This suggests banning frequent flyer programs would be unlikely to have an effect on the demand for travel.
The drive to ban reward travel confuses the average and marginal effect of flying on the environment. Saver award travel has, by definition, the lowest environmental impact of any flying. Airlines make saver inventory available when they’re flying anyway and they believe a seat won’t sell.
Most miles aren’t even earned from flying, and serve as a way of democratizing access to travel, which drives greater cultural understanding and even potentially reduces conflict across societies (which is good for the environment). Eliminating access to award travel, eliminating rebates on travel, is an elitist take which preserves access to the skies for the select few. While environmental discussions are important this is one the worst, least effective approaches to take.
(HT: Dan R.)