Comparing airline ticket prices rather than seat size is a fairer indicator of a passenger’s carbon emissions – ScienceDaily


A UCL-led study found that allocating passenger aircraft emissions using airline tickets rather than travel classes would give a more accurate idea of ​​individual contributions.

Emissions calculators base their estimates on class of travel, assuming that someone who travels in a higher class and thus takes up more space on the plane is responsible for more emissions.

The study published in Environmental Research Lettersshows how the inclusion of airline tickets in the calculations shows the passengers who contribute the most revenue to the airline that operates the aircraft, thus allowing the aircraft to fly.

Although premium (business) seats are generally more expensive than economy class, the researchers found when looking at the data that many late bookings in economy class, often made for business trips or high-income travelers, cost as much as, or More, the seats are excellent.

Lead author Dr Stijn van Ewijk (Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering at UCL) said: “The paper shows that we should follow money when calculating the emissions of individual passengers, as it is revenue that decides whether or not an airline can operate an aircraft. Paying twice as much as a fellow traveler contributes twice the amount to the airline’s revenue and must be allocated twice the emissions. The seat size per travel class, which is currently used to allocate emissions, is only a rough approximation of how much passengers pay.”

Researchers say using airfare to calculate passenger emissions will benefit efforts to tackle climate change by encouraging people of all budgets to find alternative modes of transportation where possible. It will also increase companies’ emissions estimates because it allocates more to expensive late bookings, which are often made for commercial purposes.

Implementing a tax proportional to the ticket price may make the overall costs of flying fairer. The people who buy the most expensive tickets pay the highest tax, encouraging them to look for alternatives.

While taxes vary between countries, fares are usually the same in each class of travel. Travelers who buy expensive tickets, who are likely to have higher incomes, pay relatively low tax and are not currently discouraged from traveling.

Dr van Eweijk added: “A fair approach to reducing airline emissions must not only deter travelers who can only afford the cheapest early bookings but also the big spenders who fund the airline. By capping emissions based on ticket prices and taxing those emissions, We can make sure that everyone pays their fair share, and is equally encouraged to look for alternatives.”

The ticket tax must also take into account the distance traveled and the model and age of the aircraft, which can indicate how polluted it is.

The authors used a dataset from the USA to test the fare-based allocation approach. They used the Airline Origin Survey database, which includes ticket fare data, origin and destination, class of travel and fare per mile. From this, they calculated the distribution of ticket prices to all passengers on a typical flight.

Based on the price distribution, the authors allocated emissions to passengers, and compared the results with estimates from widely used emissions calculators. Since ticket prices vary greatly depending on the time of booking, emissions per passenger also vary, much more so than based on seat size and class of travel.

Using an economic supply-and-demand model, the researchers estimated how a carbon tax would affect emissions on travelers, depending on whether the emissions it’s charged are calculated from seat size and class of travel, or an airline ticket. In all scenarios, a tax on emissions calculated from airline tickets had a more equitable effect because it reduced flying more evenly among income groups.

The researchers hope to bring about a policy change in the calculation and taxation of passenger emissions, to ensure that travelers of all budgets are encouraged to seek other forms of transportation where possible or to consider how important the journey is.



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