Library image, photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash

Elite Status: global inequalities in flying

31 March, 2021

Elite Status: global inequalities in flying

Sally Cairns

Report   Transport & Mobility

Lisa Hopkinson and Sally Cairns

Emissions from flying are threatening to crash the climate – but not everyone is equally responsible. Our latest report, ‘Elite Status: global inequalities in flying’, reveals that in almost all of the countries with the highest aviation emissions, a small minority of people take up a huge share of the flights.

The numbers

  • In the USA just 12% of people take a massive 66% of flights.
  • In France 50% of flights are taken by a tiny 2% of the population.
  • And here in the UK, a mere 15% of the population take 70% of all flights.

This pattern is repeated across the world, in countries including Canada, India, China and the Netherlands – as was the tendency for frequent flyers to have higher incomes. This means that wealthier people are disproportionately responsible for emissions that are already causing harm to people around the world, with impacts falling most heavily on poorer communities. Meanwhile, in almost all these countries, less than half the population fly each year.

What can we do?

We’re calling for a Frequent Flyer Levy, a progressive tax which goes up as someone takes more flights, or flies greater distances, every year. This means that people who save for an annual holiday or to visit family won’t be unfairly impacted, but the minority who fly multiple times each year will pay more. This would allow us to tackle climate change in a fair way which reduces inequality, and shares access to flying more equitably.

Publication details

Hopkinson, L. and Cairns, S. 2021. Elite Status: global inequalities in flyingOpens in a new tab. Report for Possible. Possible: London. 

Banner photo credit: Alireza Attari on Unsplash