The British media reports today that HM Government is to look at introducing a tax on aviation, with the express intention of putting an end to cheap flights. I can only imagine that the aviation sector will be planning a rearguard action to address this, but what can it do?
Is this the end of the low cost airline revolution as we know it? And what of the plan to expand airports? Will the plans to add new runways at STN, LHR and others now be scrapped? And what about the need for the aviation industry to invest in new, less environmentally threatening technology, to reduce the effect of CO2 emissions. Is there anything that can actually be done?
The problem is, how exactly do you stop something which you know is posing a significant danger? Where do you draw the line; what actually becomes a cheap flight? One writer to the Independent newspaper (which has been at the forefront of environmental issues) suggested everyone should have a limit of two flights per year (but that's still 120m flights a year). Maybe we should try and distil this issue down to a few key questions:
- In times past, our reaction is likely to have been: how do we obfuscate, obstruct and undermine these proposals in such a way that they become unworkable? Is it feasible - or morally acceptable - to do this now?
- Is it feasible for the aviation sector (in particular engine and airframe manufacturers) to be set certain targets by a specific time, say 2010-2015? After all, the current contribution of aviation is low, but it is expected that this will rise to about 40% (?) by 2050. Surely by then, technology can be developed which will move away from current fuels?
Where do we go from here?