2 october 2020

A letter to the Guardian, October 2, 2020

Saving the airlines could cost the Earth

Cllr Richard Robertson says the environmental impact of air travel needs to be recognised, while Matthew G Andersson thinks the most central question is whether airlines are really for-profit commercial businesses any longer

Fri 2 Oct 2020

Your long read on the airline industry’s collapse was really quite depressing (Inside the airline industry’s meltdown, 29 September). Yes, the airlines are suffering huge losses and many jobs have been lost, but the assumption that passenger numbers will eventually return to pre-pandemic levels would be to throw away one of the only big gains from the lockdown.

Airlines pay no duty on fuel and their tickets are very cheap, but they are costing the Earth as a result. It is disingenuous to assume that biofuel will ever be available in sufficient volume or that enough trees be planted (and survive) to offset the carbon released by the air industry. There is no place in a sustainable future world for the scale of flying that had been reached prior to the pandemic.

The real cost of air travel needs to be recognised, especially by frequent flyers. Businesses will surely seek to stop wasting time and money on excessive flights to meetings when online works well. Governments need to recognise the reduced role of the air industry, and help retrain those who are losing their jobs so that they can work in sustainable industries.

Cllr Richard Robertson

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