Does cheap air travel damage the environment?
Some people say cheap air travel is good because it enables ordinary people to travel, while others argue that it is bad for the environment. Discuss both views, and include your opinion.
In the past air travel was only for the elite – the rich, the powerful, the privileged. Today, hundreds of millions of people are able to travel around the world for work or pleasure. As Air Asia’s slogan puts it: “Now everyone can fly.” However, the price to be paid for this easier travel may be damage to the environment. In this essay, I will examine some of the arguments for and against cheap air travel.
There are plenty of accusations against cheap flights. Critics of budget air travel claim that the emissions from jet fuel are damaging the atmosphere. This is particularly serious at the higher levels of the atmosphere where modern jets fly. A single short flight from Dubai to Mumbai can produce as much carbon dioxide as one month’s driving for a family. The environmental cost continues when the tourists land, as hotels, leisure and other facilities are very significant polluters and consume a lot of resources. A third point of course is that this travel is mostly ‘unnecessary’ and people would simply stay at home if the flights were not so cheap.
However, the proponents of cheap air travel, such as Ireland’s Michael O’Leary, have their own powerful counterclaims. First, they reject the allegation that jets contribute significantly to global warming. They point out that modern jets are much quieter and much more fuel-efficient than in the past. Secondly, many countries already have carbon taxes or levies included in the price of the airline ticket or aviation fuel. This can offset the carbon produced during the flight. In addition, most of the arguments against cheap flights are based on the belief that it is acceptable for certain people to fly, but not for ordinary people. In other words, the wealthy or powerful would like to deprive ordinary people of the right to travel, to see new places and meet new people.
In conclusion, cheap air travel is not a clear-cut issue, but a political, economic and environmental minefield. In my opinion, everyone should have the opportunity to travel, but we do need some monitoring of the effect on the environment, both in the air and on the ground.