If you spend any time on the internet, you’ve likely seen the recent video of Brazilian footballer Neymar taking a private Boeing 747 flight from Paris to Saudi Arabia, on a plane owned by Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud. The choice to fly privately immediately drew criticism, with this single flight estimated to be equivalent to the annual emissions of 85 average UK individuals.
While this particular flight was upsettingly extreme, both due to its emissions and what it suggests about how little the rich care about the most vulnerable who are harmed by the climate crisis, it’s also indicative of a much wider problem that needs to be urgently addressed.
It’s time to ban private jets. Here’s why.
The problem with private jets
Celebrities and politicians are getting shamed for private jet use like never before. From Kylie Jenner to Rishi Sunak, it’s becoming increasingly clear to the public that a select, elite few are responsible for extremely high emissions, particularly when it comes to transport.
As of July 2023, private jets make up 1 in 10 flights in the UK. Of 134,000 private flights made in the past 12 months 29% took an hour or less, with nearly 8,000 flights less than half an hour door-to-door. On top of this, the majority of passengers who fly on small or medium-sized private jets will pay an equivalent tax to premium economy commercial passengers. 1/5 of private passengers pay no tax at all, as some smaller aircraft, weighing under 5.7 tonnes, are currently exempt.
As the climate crisis continues to escalate, this is simply unacceptable.
But activists are pushing back and turning their focus to private jets. In May 203, supporters of Stay Grounded, Greenpeace and Scientist Rebellion disrupted Europe’s biggest private jet fair; Germany’s Last Generation have consistently targeted private jets; and on Valentine’s Day 2023, over 20 global actions took place against private jets, targeting private jet terminals in Los Angeles, London Luton, New Zealand, Amsterdam, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Norway and Australia.
Aviation = social inequality
Just 1% of people are responsible for 50% of all aviation emissions. In 2018, just 2 – 4% of the global population flew internationally. Flying is already the most polluting form of transport, but it is a very small number of people who are directly responsible for the soaring level of emissions from this sector.
While the majority of ordinary people have been struggling through a cost of living crisis, private jet sales will likely reach a record high in 2023. Private jets are an extreme microcosm of the aviation sector: the financial and personal benefits are enjoyed by a tiny number of individuals, but the social, financial and environmental costs are paid by everyone else.
On top of this, private jets are up to 30 times more polluting than standard flights, while generally paying less tax than commercial flights. Most private jets are used for very short trips (less than 500 km) and for recreation, often on routes where alternatives like trains exist. Seven of the ten most polluting routes taken by private aircraft within Europe lie on the UK-France-Switzerland-Italy axis, which is accessible by train. A private jet is 10 times more energy-intensive compared to a commercial airliner, and 50 times more energy-intensive than train travel.
In Geneva 100 climate activists supporting @StayGroundedNet, @ScientistRebel1, @ExtinctionR, and @Greenpeace, are interrupting the biggest private jet sales event in Europe #Ebace2023.
Follow us for live updates throughout this action!#BanPrivateJets
🧵 1/ pic.twitter.com/NRrFV33V8N
— Stay Grounded Network (@StayGroundedNet) May 23, 2023
Just one four-hour flight in a private jet emits as much carbon as the average person does in an entire year. Citizens’ Assemblies in multiple countries have shown that people are in favour of banning private jets. They also concluded that wealthy polluters should pay for their higher emissions, and that there should be an increasing tax applied to those who fly further and more frequently than others, also known as a frequent flyer levy.
What is being done?
Banning private jets is common sense from both an environmental and social point of view. While a full ban isn’t currently on the table, momentum is growing including:
- Schiphol Airport recently decided to ban private jets.
- The French Parliament debated banning private jets in 2022 and has banned short-haul commercial flights where train alternatives exist.
- The European Union discussed regulating private jets for the first time this year.
- The Scottish Greens proposed a “super tax” on private jets that fly into Scotland.
- The left-Green Sumar coalition in Spain, who have seen increased popularity in recent elections, proposed a near-ban on private jets (restricting use to very particular circumstances) alongside similar policies to France’s short-haul flights rules.
There are also ways that you can make your voice heard. Including: