Premium, business or first-class seat are regarded as more harmful to the environment, because the passenger is taking up more space on the aircraft. Most countries tax them more, too.
But according to a new study, allocating passenger aircraft emissions using airfares rather than travel class gives a more accurate idea of individual contributions, prompting calls for a tax rethink.
Researchers at the UK’s University College London describe how including airfares in calculations shows which passengers contribute the most revenue to the airline operating the aircraft, thereby allowing the plane to fly.
Although premium seats are more expensive than economy, they found many late bookings in economy class, often made for business trips or by high income travelers, cost as much as, or more than, premium seats.
“The paper shows we should follow the money when calculating emissions of individual travelers, as it is revenue that decides whether an airline can operate a plane or not,” said lead author Dr. Stijn van Ewijk.
“Someone who has paid twice as much as a fellow traveler contributes twice as much to the revenue of the airline and should be allocated twice the emissions. The seat size of each travel class, which is currently used to allocate emissions, is only a rough approximation of how much passengers pay,” he said.
Implementing a tax that is proportionate to the price of the ticket could make the total costs of flying fairer, the study suggests. People buying the most expensive tickets would pay the highest tax, encouraging them to seek alternatives. It could increase estimates of corporate emissions because it allocates more to expensive late bookings, which are often made for business purposes.
The study used data from the Airline Origin Survey database.
“Estimating passenger emissions from airfares supports equitable climate action” was published on Wednesday.