The travel sector could be as little as two years away from facing government restrictions on flying if efforts to address and tackle climate change are not significantly accelerated.
Sunvil founder and former Abta chairman Noel Josephides told delegates at the Aito conference on Friday (22 November) the aviation sector could no longer “bury its head in the sand” on climate issues in the face of growing pressure on airlines to clean up their act.
“The pressure will mount and mount and mount,” said Josephides, speaking during a panel discussion on whether mainstream travel “is broken”. “I think talk of abolishing things like APD is pie in the sky. Tax on flying will go up in Europe.
“If matters don’t improve, there will come a time when governments are going to panic and really restrict our ability to fly. I would put a timeline of around two years on this. We have been able to travel around the world for next to nothing. I think that will have to stop.”
Speaking to TTG ahead of the panel, Josephides said he could see this taking the form of “rationing”, with additional flying taxed at a significantly higher rate to encourage people to fly less, but in turn, make better use of their flying footprint by taking longer holidays.
Josephides revealed Greece and Cyprus specialist Sunvil was preparing to offer rail options for some of its holidays, such as travelling to Corfu by train.
He also praised easyJet’s commitment, made on Tuesday (19 November), to offset emissions from fuel used on flights across its entire network with immediate effect, a point echoed by director of the Travel Trade Consultancy director Matt Purser who said it would be interesting to see who follows easyJet’s lead.
However, he cast doubt on travel habits changing in the near future. “I don’t think it will stop people travelling,” he said. “As much as people say they are conscious about it, when it comes down to it, they will still fly.”
Purser did though suggest people may change their habits in respect of travelling to Europe and look at alternatives. Stephen Mason, senior counsel at Travlaw, revealed he travelled to the conference in Wroclaw, Poland, by rail due to his fear of flying. “I find myself in the interesting position reflecting on how the future of travel is going to look,” he said.
He added that while he felt there were likely too many “blocks” in the way right now to mass adoption of rail travel as a viable option for holiday travel, rail “had to be a bigger part” of the future travel landscape in Europe.
Abta’s head of financial protection John de Vial told delegates that despite the clash of climate science, public opinion and the position of government, he didn’t foresee much change in the immediate future – “the next five years”.
However, he added: “As an industry, we have to take the next 10 to 20 years seriously; there could be fundamental change to the aviation and rail industries.”