Aviation is essentially a fossil fuel industry, one which guzzles an eye-watering 5m barrels of oil every day. Burning that fuel currently contributes around 2.5% to total carbon emissions, a proportion which could rise to 22% by 2050 as other sectors emit less.
2nd problem is, as Air Asia puts it, “Now everyone can fly”. And in “generation easyJet”, those who already fly, fly more than ever. This increasing demand from new and existing travellers means the number of passenger aircraft in our skies is set to double by 2035
3rd problem is that unlike other sectors where there might be a greener alternative (solar not coal, LEDs not lightbulbs etc), there is currently no way to fly 8m people every day without burning lots of dirty kerosene…Aviation is a golden goose for politicians. In the UK, where sources of future post-Brexit economic growth are hard to identify, the industry looks set to continue its enviable historic growth-rate of 4-5% annually. The main problem for airlines now is finding enough space to accommodate planes at crowded airports such as Heathrow. Airlines’ seductive message to politicians is “If you build it, they will come.”
Tony Blair asked as prime minister in 2005 “how many politicians facing a potential election would vote to end cheap air travel?” His answer: zero. The political strategy seems to be passing the buck to the airline industry, and hoping for the best…And the primary reason that they will come is because flying is kept artificially cheap, while trains and cars become more expensive. The main reason for this is the so-called “Chicago Convention”, agreed in 1944 by a then much smaller air industry, which prohibits countries from imposing jet fuel tax and VAT on international flights.