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Air travel

For many households, international aviation offers the chance to explore different parts of the globe and domestic flights have also  become a more popular means of getting across the UK.

Like the rest of the world, the UK has experienced a boom in air travel with overall passenger journeys growing from around 100,000 to 280,000 journeys per year between 1990 and 2017. Discounting flights taken for business purposes, it is estimated that average household emissions from recreational flights almost doubled from 533 to 1,027 kg of carbon dioxide over this period. In reality, a small proportion of households are responsible for the majority of flights.

A government survey conducted in 2014 found that in the previous year, just 15% of people were responsible for 70% of all flights. 50% of those surveyed had not flown at all in that period. This suggest that measures to curb aviation demand by incorporating the cost of carbon would be felt most keenly by a small community of ‘frequent flyers’.


Globally, 1% of people take 18% of all passenger flights and the distance flown per person per year averages out at only 1.15km. How does that compare to the distance you fly each year? One passenger on a return flight from London to Edinburgh creates as much CO2 as one whole year of a person living in a developing country. Another interesting statistic is that for every ton of CO2 released, 3 square metres  of Arctic sea ice melt – which means that a flight from London to San Francisco melts 5 square metres!


Whilst the aviation industry, over the long term will be able to reduce emissions through new technologies and possibly some changes in airport procedures, we all need to take steps to reduce emissions generated by our household flying habits?

  • The experience of working from home and using technology to hold virtual meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic will surely lead the way on reduced business travel.

  • As individuals we can make informed choices about our air travel:

    • Can we use high-speed rail journeys to reduce domestic and European travel?

    • How about taking fewer but maybe longer holidays?

    • Can we holiday in the UK instead of abroad?


Whenever we do fly, we should consider offsetting our emissions.

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