Would You Support A ‘Frequent Flyer Tax’?

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BBC Environment Analyst, Roger Harrabin, reports on research that indicates that (pre-covid) in the UK, 70% of flights are taken by just 15% of Brits. From previous surveys we’ve done here at InsideFlyer, that figure seems plausible.

The situation has led to various campaign groups, including Greenpeace, calling for a ‘frequent flyer levy’. Essentially, what that would mean is that the more you fly, the more tax you pay on those flights.

Alethea Warrington, from climate change action group Possible, said:

“This report shows the same pattern of inequality around the world – a small minority of frequent flyers take an unfair share of the flights…While the poorest communities are already suffering the impacts of a warming climate, the benefits of high-carbon lifestyles are enjoyed only by the few. A lot of people travel. But only the privileged few fly often.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, goes even further:

“Taxing frequent fliers is a good idea – but we also have to do something about air miles, which reward frequent fliers for flying more frequently. This is obscene during a climate crisis – and it should be stopped.”

What do you think about a frequent flyer tax?

Setting aside the practicality of how a frequent flyer tax might actually work in practice, what do you think about one in principle?

The comments section below is open…


  1. Lorcan Coyle says

    Idiotic idea. There’s already a frequent flyer tax in UK via APD – even though it’s a crude tax that isn’t directly linked to climate change impact – and airlines are subject to ETS requirements which at least incentivise use of more efficient aircraft. There’s scope for better taxation and incentives, but this perpetuates the fiction that it’s easy and someone else will pay…

  2. David Blake says

    There are already taxes on aircraft flights which could be adjusted. Adding another tax mechanism takes investment and has a cost burden with respect to collection. If this were to be introduced it must be expected that the burden will primarily fall on travellers from the UK.

    As most of the frequent flyers will be travelling on business, surely there should also be consideration of a tax on high mileage car users who also will probably be travelling on business.

    Appears to be another seat of the pants reaction without thinking through a harmonised and simple tax system that does not take too much admin to deliver and actually helps to reduce carbon emissions.

  3. Tom Sumner says

    I’d probably tax flying a bit more. But then I’d also tax fossil-fuelled cars, cigarettes, alcohol, donuts, red-meats etc etc to a ludicrous degree too, while giving rebates for exercise equipment and participation. Basically, if you’re not a vegan ultra-triathlete in SumnerWorld, you are shafted.

    • Tim says

      🙂 I accept the tongue in cheek reply. On a serious note though: I drive a 2010 Mercedes E class 3 litre diesel which I’ve owned since new. In ten years, I’ve driven 32,000 miles in it. In a SumnerWorld am I going to be taxed more for driving that or switching to electric? Is the environmental cost of creating new cars weighed into Sumner calculations? By my reckoning my environmental cost of buying electric would be the equivalent of about 800,000 miles in the Merc. And although the Merc probably would keep on going for 800,000 miles, the battery cars seem to pop out at about 50,000. Which means a whole new load of batteries and their environmental impact too. It’s not just the running cost of cars that need to be taken into consideration…

      • Tom Sumner says

        I totally agree that it’s never an easy calculation, and you make entirely valid points. My problem, particularly with the use of fossil fuels, is that we are too often charged for using environmentally harmful products based on their immediate cost, rather than factoring in the real cost of the damage they cause. But how exactly you do that fairly is way beyond my intellect. Plus, as you say, there are variations on the theme – you buy a nice new electric car to go all eco, but in building that new car there’s an environmental cost, the battery shafts the planet, the electricity generation may well be unclean too. Etc.

        What I am very confident about however, is that future generations will look back at us as reckless and irresponsible in our treatment of the environment, and I feel bad to be part of that.

  4. MoleseyMan says

    I don’t agree with this tax proposed by Greenpeace, but I have thought for some time that frequent flyer points/miles earned from business travel should be subject to income tax, give they are essentially a benefit in kind.

  5. Todd Smith says

    I think, it’s a great idea. The frequent flyer levy can be used to accelerate the transition to low carbon infrastructure so desperately required and will not impact most sensible air travellers. I would go one further and tax kerosene globally which will ensure airlines move towards more sustainable fuel systems and charge passengers their fair share for the vast quantities of CO2 and non-CO2 heating emissions that are caused from aviation. The excess tax gained could also be used to help airline workers who are currently facing multiple crises with little to no help from the government.

  6. Polly says

    Turkeys don’t vote for Xmas….we are all freqflyers on this site. We pay sufficient taxes and fees with our airmiles, already.

  7. chris Riches says

    On a typical long haul flight in business class there is already a levy of up to £700. Isn’t that enough? Additionally, I get the majority of air miles from personal spend on a credit card, some on car rental, some from shopping portals, how will that be taxed? Also? Airlines are in danger of collapse due to Covid, do we really want to totally kill them off? Incidentally, ships add more pollution to the atmosphere, what about coal fired power in India, Russia, China? Don’t just go fir an easy target.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      £700 isn’t just taxes. Most of it is BA’s “carrier-imposed” surcharges that they keep for themselves.

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