Do frequent flyer programs encourage travelers to take more flights than they need to? Should the small subset of road warriors who take the majority of flights be taxed for their excessive flying? That’s what a government-sanctioned climate report advocates for in the UK.
And to that, I first ask:
- Who defines need?
- Who defies excessive?
The report, commissioned by the UK Committee of Climate Change, outlines several proposals to reduce carbon emission, including banning frequent flyer program. The study, conducted by Dr. Richard Carmichael of London’s Imperial College, suggests:
Introducing restrictions to…loyalty schemes which offer air miles would remove incentives to excessive or stimulated flying.
I will stipulate that banning frequent flyer programs would reduce flying. Heck, it would probably cut over 100,000 miles/year from my own flying. I am also happy to stipulate that a small minority takes the majority of flights. That is often the nature of any consumed commodity.
Finally, I’ll give the study credit for trying to think outside the box and propose measures that, in its estimation, would slow the proliferation of climate change. Such efforts, even if ultimately futile, should be lauded. Everyone should seek to be a good steward of the Earth.
A Flawed Approach To Climate Change
But the study represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the way frequent flyer programs historically operate and a profound underestimate of the upside of widespread, affordable airfare.
Frequent flyer programs specialize in offering seats to flyers that would otherwise go empty. That’s a broad generalization, but the very nature of so-called “saver” seats is that airlines believes the seat would otherwise not sell. The addition of one passenger on a flight that will operate anyway has a marginal, if not negligible, impact on the environment. Every single one of my award flights this year has been on a flight with open seats.
Even as frequent flyer programs are trending toward a more revenue-based redemption model, such programs help to fill airplanes, not increase the number of flights. Do climate activists really want to go back to the era in which load factors were 50-70% instead of 80-95%?
Frequent flyer programs also represents an emergency savings account, perfect for unexpected last-minute trips. Few things make the death of a loved one worse than spending thousands of dollars for a last-minute trip to the hospital bed or funeral. Frequent flyer miles help at the most critical times, often providing outsized value (12,500 miles or $600 for a ticket…hmm).
Why Flying Should Be Encouraged
Secondly, the practical result of eliminating frequent flyer programs, taxing cheap flights, and generally discouraging flying is that flying would revert to a luxury of the wealthy.
One of the great upsides to the proliferation of flying, particularly budget flying, is its democratizing effect. What a wonderful world we live in where cheap flying has made it possible for a huge additional subset of the population to see the world. Travel opens your eyes; it builds empathy, encourages understanding, defeats bigotry, and encourages peace. On a global scale, travel makes broader and more unified approaches to climate change possible by allowing us to stand in the shoes of others and better appreciate the consequences of our actions.
This proposal is dead on arrival, at least in terms of banning frequent flyers programs, so our discussion is merely for the sake of discussion. Still, we will see more proposals like this going forward. I may be just be a cynical pessimist, but I think our efforts are better spent planning for life and creating jobs in a warming world. Humans are innovative creatures. I’m confident we can figure it out. But we should do so not only smartly, but realistically.
That’s what you get when celebrating idiots like greta. A brat who knows nothing and didn’t have manners. Live with it!
You really feel good calling a 16 year old who is taking a stand a brat and an idiot? You (and I) may not agree with everything she says, but your attitude can use alot of correction.
When a healthy 16 year old girl living in Denmark in probably a nice home, with nice gadgets and a very comfortable life says her childhood and future is destroyed by climate change, she loses all legitimacy. If she was talking about migrants committing rapes and making Europe unsafe for women she might have a point. But rising sea levels of a few feet isn’t destroying her childhood or future. It’s one thing to call out an issue but completely another to exaggerate it by 1000 fold.
Good god you’re a reprehensible person. A trumptard no doubt. People like you should just walk right into the sea.
Hello kettle, this is pot. You’re black.
Here’s the core problem: mileage runners are exploiting the inefficiencies in the economic model of loyalty programs. That’s not a good argument for shutting them down; it’s the same as “well, welfare may have helped millions of people, but I know someone abusing the system.”
A better argument might be “loyalty programs encourage people to fly over other means of transportation”: well, except for the US, where they basically have become credit card promotions.
But, at the end of the day, airlines will encourage passengers to fly (unless they’re worried about a gas tax at Schiphol) and will find ways to get their load factors up. Taking away one tool to do so won’t change the result.
What we need is an “all of the above approach”: Fix rail, worldwide. That means nationalize down to the land the tracks are laid on. Heck, I try not to take the train in Germany these days because they just don’t work like they did 20 years ago. Thatcher killed British rail: you fly from one part of the country to another because the train is way too expensive and unreliable. The Dutch have neo-liberalized their public transit to the point that, if you’re not commuting to work, it’s not worth taking a train.
Fix rail, and make airlines pay their fare share. That’s not “fuel plus BS offsets calculated on the CO2-sequestering power over 20 years of a tree planted in Panama that will burn next year.” That means fuel plus funds that will be used to remove from the air and store three times the carbon released by the flight and by all those working on the plane. That otta cover it.
Or you could bring back US-style regulation. So every seat is a nice seat again, and everyone makes money.
This one might be ‘DOA’, but that’s not to say it won’t be coming back in a different form. Compulsory carbon offsetting is a certainty, sooner rather than later. It’s inevitable that airlines will be required to stop serving beef in any form.
Are you suggesting that just because there’s an open seat on a plane that, in taking it , you’re not adding to your carbon footprint…and that a FFP seat is therefore benign?
I don’t believe that FFPs should be banned; rather the users should be taxed far more heavily, reflecting the adverse affects their choices have on others, including billions of people who will never fly but are being required to pay , heavily, for the extravagances of those who do.
I hope everyone has seen the news report out by ABC news on July 5th on national news where it reports there has been a study by scientists, that state if we can plant a trillion trees over the course of a year, this will in short time re-capture 25-35% of the carbon in the atmosphere.
I was obviously puzzled, how much does it cost and can you plant that many trees? In an additional study, they were able to plant 350 million trees at one time, so a trillion is not out of the question.
The cost was surpisingly low at $300 billion and they believe that can be lowered. By far this is the easiest method and most cost effective method to deal with the problem and obviously what happens if you plant this many trees per year but do it for 5 years, then the problem is solved.
If we let the free market deal with this issue, the cost will be lower and we do not have a bunch of kooks out there stating -“we need to eat the babies”. Yes, this actually happened, this was at a AOC news conference where this lady actually stated this-we need to eat babies, instead of reasonable idea of planting trees.
Again this is what happens when we let kooks like AOC tell us we need to rebuild all of America’s buildings and we need to stop flying and we need to spend trillions of dollars just on AOC’s pet projects??
Yet it is ok , if AOC tells Amazon they cannot creat 25,000 jobs in NYC? Go figure!!!!!!
Carlos wrote: “ If we let the free market deal with this issue, the cost will be lower and we do not have a bunch of kooks out there stating -“we need to eat the babies”. Yes, this actually happened, this was at a AOC news conference where this lady actually stated this-we need to eat babies, instead of reasonable idea of planting trees.”
That is a lie. The incident was a staged hoax by an ultra-right wing fringe group. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/04/fringe-group-planned-eat-babies-stunt-aoc-town-hall/3869116002/
The real problem no wants to address is the windmills! I hate em.