Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, May 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
In a move that would have the characters in Alice in Wonderland spluttering with incredulity, the UK Conservative Party has leapt on what is now a very crowded anti-aviation bandwagon to put its aviation two penny” worth in.
No-one would argue, least of all anyone in the airline industry, that the aviation business needs to take every possible measure to reassure the travelling public ” and the hungry Exchequer ” that it is doing its utmost to reduce pollution.
But politicians of all hues scent blood ” and aviation has become the cause celebre of the green extremists, not to mention every Tom, Dick and Harry politician who can be heard busily denouncing the sector as heralder of the next ice age.
The stampede to publicly parade green credentials is now surely becoming irrational. Aviation appears nightly on our news screens to be lambasted by all and sundry, while anyone not lining up four-square behind the green banner is viewed with suspicion, despite open skies talks to free up the sector.
And now what”s this? The conservative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, in a ”Greener Skies” conference this week, referred to taxation aimed at ”dirtier aircraft and frequent fliers.” Just where are these ”dirty aircraft” in the UK? Aircraft have never been ”cleaner” ” or quieter for that matter ” and it is simplistic shorthand to lump all aircraft in as one, in a supposedly serious debate, let alone have a pop at frequent fliers, most of whom are presumably contributing to the UK economy, not just off to sip a G&T on their south of France terrace.
It”s not so long ago that airports hosted such venerable machines as DC8”s (pictured), 707”s, Tridents, 1-11s et al. Now they were noisy and possibly ”dirty” under Osborne”s microscopic gaze, but aircraft today leave an almost unrecognisable noise footprint compared to those beasts of the jungle.
And while we”re at it, a significant number of these shiny new aircraft tip-toeing into LHR, LGW and MAN are of the low-cost variety, the variety on which apparently Osborne and his ilk, want us to take just the one flight per year, before being hit by tax.
One flight? We”re not living in 1963 when a trip to Magaluf was a huge ” and exotic ” commitment. Low-fare carriers have democratised and revolutionised air travel in a similar way to the pioneering charter carriers all those decades ago.
The genie is out of the bottle. The wheel can”t be uninvented. Trot along to most major UK airports these days, Luton, Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol, Newcastle, Birmingham etc and the variety of passenger is staggering. Not Osborne”s view of a passenger parsimoniously eking out his travel ration, but second home owners, stag and hen parties, families visiting and yes, business travellers, who refuse to fork out small mortgages to get to Glasgow.
It will require eye-watering taxation levels before passengers stay on terra firma and in the UK, does that mean using our sleek 21st century train service at affordable prices or uncrowded and swift motorway networks instead? A recent conversation with an airport pressure group, elicited the fact that they did not have a view on alternatives to air travel, such as road and rail ” they were simply anti-airport expansion. Anti is easy, coming up with something positive needs graft.
No serious governmental travel policy can address channels in isolation. The Labour Party”s much-trumpeted talk of travel integration when it came to power in 1997 with untold billions, isn”t much use when you”re on a misery line into London or queuing on the M6. Everyone wants their slice of the cake of course and transport is no exception, but aviation on its own is a miniscule polluter compared to home waste.
Bashing aviation over the head may be the fashion of the moment, but it needs far more serious ” and scientific ” research coupled with experts” ” not politicians” ” views on how to reconcile real people”s needs with those of the planet. And while we”re at it, are the politicos talking to the governments of South America and Asia to stop them ripping up the forests?