Comparing airfares instead of seat size, fairer indicator of passenger carbon emissions – Zoo House News

Comparing airfares instead of seat size, fairer indicator of passenger carbon emissions – Zoo House News

  • Science
  • January 25, 2023
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Allocation of emissions from passenger aircraft based on fare rather than class of travel would give a more accurate idea of ​​individual contributions, according to a study led by UCL.

Emissions calculators base their estimates on travel class and assume that someone traveling in a higher class, and therefore taking up more space on the plane, is responsible for more emissions.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, describes how including airfare in the calculations reveals which passengers contribute the most revenue to the airline operating the plane, which allows the plane to fly.

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

lead author dr Stijn van Ewijk (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) said: “The paper shows that we should look at the money when calculating the emissions of individual travelers as revenue is what decides whether an airline can operate an aircraft or not. Someone who has paid twice as much as a fellow passenger is contributing twice as much to the airline’s revenue and should be allocated twice as many emissions as many passengers are paying.”

The researchers say using airfares to calculate passenger emissions would benefit efforts to combat climate change by encouraging people of all budgets to find alternative modes of transport where possible. It would also increase estimates of corporate emissions as it allocates more to more expensive late bookings, which are often made for business purposes.

Introducing a tax proportional to the ticket price could make the overall cost of flying fairer. Those who buy the most expensive tickets pay the highest taxes, encouraging them to look for alternatives.

While taxes vary from country to country, rates are generally the same for all travel classes. Travelers who buy expensive tickets, who tend to have higher incomes, pay a relatively low tax and are currently not discouraged from flying.

dr Van Ewijk added: “A fair approach to reducing airline emissions should not only deter travelers who can only afford the cheapest early bookings, but also the big donors who fund the airline. By allocating emissions based on ticket prices and taxing those emissions we can ensure everyone pays their fair share and is equally encouraged to look for alternatives.”

A ticket tax should also take into account the distance flown and the model and age of the aircraft, which can give an indication of how polluting it is.

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

Based on the price distribution, the authors assigned the emissions to the 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 far more than seat size and travel class.

Using an economic supply-demand model, the researchers estimated how a carbon tax on emissions would affect travelers depending on whether the emissions to which the tax applies were calculated using seat size and travel class or airfare. An emissions tax calculated from flight prices had a fairer effect in all scenarios because it reduced flying more evenly across income groups.

The researchers hope to bring about a change in policy on how passenger emissions are calculated and taxed, to ensure travelers on any budget are encouraged to choose other modes of transport where possible or to consider the importance of the trip.

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