Campaigners demand stronger tax on private jets as luxury travel in UK soars

While government refuses to reveal details of Prime Minister's private jet use at taxpayer expense

Campaigners have announced that private jets ‘are even worse than we thought’ after new research presents their high carbon footprint and low rate of taxation in the UK as post-pandemic luxury travel grows.

One in ten flights from UK airports are now from private jets, research by the climate action campaign group Possible found. Pre-pandemic, 7.5% of flights were private, which peaked at 20% during the pandemic and now sits at 10%.

Emissions from private jets are 30 times higher than normal flights, yet activists have stressed that the taxation is not proportionate. Half of private jet passengers pay the same rate of tax as passengers on standard flights, whilst one in five private jets pay no tax at all.

Possible are calling for a ban on private jets by 2030, with a proper tax system in place until then. The group’s report ‘jetting away with it’ found that, the more polluting an individual’s flight is, the lower the effective rate of tax per tonne of emissions.

They used the example of someone flying from London to Edinburgh, where a passenger in economy on a standard commercial flight would pay £43 per tonne of emission, while the same journey by private jet would see you pay the equivalent of £20 in a larger one, £6 in a medium jet and nothing at all for a trip in a small private jet.

While you would pay three times more in tax to drive there than fly by private jet, highlighting the absurdity of the system.

This is despite the huge climate impact of using luxury travel. While the report also highlights greenwashing by aviation companies using carbon offsets to claim they are travelling green, which only ‘does more harm than good’.

Stronger tax on private jets could raise £200 million a year, research by the independent think tank Green Alliance found. As trips by private jet made within the UK or from the UK to Europe accounted for at least 90,000 flights in 2022, which was the highest number in Europe (their research doesn’t mention how many Rishi Sunak personally contributed to this).

In fact the government has refused to reveal details of the Prime Minister’s private jet use paid for by the taxpayer, which climate activists have said make a mockery of the Tory’s climate targets.

It also comes as Europe experiences a mega-heatwave, setting a sombre backdrop on demands for greener political policy.

(Photo credit: Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

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