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Our View: Balancing aviation growth and climate concerns is a fine line

ONCE a luxury for the wealthy, flying has become so commonplace that on a day in June last year, flightradar24.com tracked over 200,000 flights around the globe, a record number.

There is no reason to doubt the detrimental impact of air transport on the planet – all you need are eyes, ears and a nose – but how it will be handled going forward will be the six-million-dollar question.

Transport Minister Vassiliki Anastasiadou said on Wednesday the aviation industry was at a critical juncture between sustainability and growth and she rightly pointed out, Cyprus cannot withstand further hikes in air fares, either when it comes to the wellbeing of its tourism industry or its residents.

She asked that whatever decisions might be taken to counteract aviation’s effects on the environment take into account the specificities of member countries.

As a captive market, airlines can do whatever they want in Cyprus as the state cannot intervene so it would be unfair if the EU decided, as it has a tendency to try and change certain behaviours, by piling more taxes on the airlines, because they will just pass them on to consumers.

Sometimes when you try to do the right thing like saving the planet by punishing the offenders, the people who suffer most may end up not necessarily being the ones you’ve targeted as climate offenders. A huge number of developing countries also depend on tourism and business travellers. What effect would it have on them if affluent Europeans did not holiday in far-flung, often poverty-stricken countries?

So instead of taking out the stick and beating people with ‘flight shaming’, or using ‘carbon taxes’ when developing a sustainability and growth policy going forward, the powers-that-be might consider incentives for people to travel by other means within parts of mainland Europe as a start.

Right now, some flights are so cheap they beat out train fares and ferry prices, and as things stand consumers will always go for the cheaper option, which brings things back full circle to the advent of low-cost airlines and the demand that drives them… us.

Perhaps restrictions could be put on really short flights across land where other options are available and feasible for travellers. Flying is not always the fastest route when you consider the two hours pre-flight, plus getting to and from cities to their airports. Brussels to Paris, which is less than 1.5 hours by train is five hours or so when you factor in all the aspects of flying. But airports too need to make money to stay operational so cutting down flights would put a lot of people out of work all round and negatively affect economies. Maybe it’s all something that needs to happen irrespective of the consequences, just like the advent of AI and robots, a train that’s already left the station and something to which we will all simply have to adapt.

 

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