easyJet criticised for launching 12 new UK routes, some easily linked by train
EasyJet has launched 12 new domestic UK flying routes on Thursday, to take advantage of the bans on foreign travel. Anything to make some money and get people flying, despite needlessly increasing carbon emissions. Some of the routes could easily be travelled by train, in a reasonable time. However, the flights will be cheaper (fares like £23 for a 200 mile journey) than train tickets, especially as the government wants to remove Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights, making them still cheaper in relation to rail tickets. The move by EasyJet has been criticised by environmental campaigners, due to the increased greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the new routes were served by other airlines, including Stobart Air, which recently collapsed. The UK government, while claiming to be serious about reducing the country’s CO2 emissions, is in sharp contrast with France, which is banning flights where a train journey is available that takes less than 2.5 hours. Support for unnecessarily polluting airlines will further undermine our credibility at the COP26. Though many of the new EasyJet routes are to/from Belfast, or Aberdeen or Jersey, others are within the UK land area, and viable rail routes.
Green activists criticise easyJet for launching 12 new UK routes
Airline’s new domestic routes include Birmingham to Newquay, less than 200 miles, for £22.99
By Fiona Harvey, Environment correspondent (The Guardian)
Thu 17 Jun 2021
EasyJet launched 12 new domestic UK flying routes on Thursday, a decision criticised by green campaigners as likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The airline said the routes, which will include Birmingham to Newquay for £22.99 – less than 200 miles – as well as Liverpool to Bournemouth at £22.99 and Manchester to Edinburgh at £30.00, as well as to Belfast and the Channel Islands, were in response to passenger demand following restrictions on travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the new routes were served by other airlines, including Stobart Air, which recently went bust.
Most of them are viable by train, but rail operators charge far higher prices. The government is to make reductions in air passenger duty on domestic flights, which will make flying even cheaper compared with train journeys.
The UK government’s stance is in sharp contrast with France, which is banning flights where a train journey is available that takes less than 2.5 hours.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the move showed that the government was not taking seriously its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030, and 78% by 2035, which have been key commitments in the runup to the Cop26 UN climate talks in Glasgow this November.
He said: “Domestic flights have long been a symbol of how our economic system incentivises our own destruction. Companies like easyJet claim to take sustainability seriously, but their announcement of 12 new domestic routes shows they will not prioritise our planet’s health over their profits until they are forced to do so by law. The UK government claims to be a climate leader but is considering lowering taxes on domestic flights despite them being cheaper than train fares on many routes. What will it take to make ministers understand that you can’t hit carbon reduction targets without carbon reduction policies?”
Campaigners have warned that a series of recent actions by the government appear to undermine the UK’s green commitments ahead of Cop26, including a proposed new coalmine in Cumbria, the scrapping of the green homes grant insulation programme, slashing the incentives for electric cars, and the cutting of overseas aid, which experts said undermined the UK’s credibility at the G7 summit, where climate was a major issue.
An easyJet spokesperson said: “The new routes which will operate this summer have been introduced in response to the demand we’re seeing for domestic air travel in the UK and as with all our flights, we offset all of the carbon emissions from the fuel used for them.”
She said the company was also using more efficient aircraft and “supporting the development of radical new technologies to achieve zero-emission flying in the future, which we are committed to transitioning to as soon as they are available”.
Such technologies are likely to be decades away, however, and green campaigners point out that carbon output in the next 10 years will be crucial. Scientists calculate that the world must halve carbon emissions by 2030 to have a chance of staying below 1.5C of global heating.
EasyJet has been one of the biggest beneficiaries from the government’s cash schemes to keep companies afloat during the pandemic, drawing on loans of about £2bn from the public purse. Ministers refused to place “green strings” on the cash to ensure recipients met environmental targets, as some other governments have done.
Sauven said: “The pandemic has put the UK government firmly in charge of the aviation industry, as it now needs huge amounts of public money to survive. They have decided to rebuild the failed high-carbon, frequent flyer model at our expense without imposing any conditions on the airlines that might make them slightly less environmentally costly. Support for unnecessarily polluting airlines will further undermine our credibility at the climate summit in Glasgow.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “Through Great British Railways, this government is reforming trains to make them truly passenger-focused, and to win people’s trust and confidence. Through our ambitious reforms, including new flexible season tickets and contracts focused on excellent customer service and punctual, reliable services, we’re committed to bringing people back to the UK’s rail network.”
**New routes now on sale include:
- Belfast International to East Midlands Airport, taking off 9 July, operating four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with fares starting from £22.99
- Belfast International to Leeds Bradford Airport, taking off 9 July, operating four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays with fares starting from £22.99
- London Gatwick to Belfast City Airport, taking off 9 July, operating twice daily with fares starting from £28.99
- Bristol to Jersey, taking off 10 July, operating three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with fares starting from £14.99
- Bristol to Aberdeen, taking off 9 July, operating four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with fares starting from £24.99
- Manchester to Aberdeen, taking off 9 July, operating four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with fares starting from £22.99
- Manchester to Edinburgh, taking off 9 July, operating four times a week on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays with fares starting from £30.99
- Birmingham to Jersey, taking off 11 July, operating twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays with fares starting from £14.99
- Birmingham to Newquay, taking off 10 July, operating twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays with fares starting from £22.99
- Liverpool to Bournemouth, taking off 10 July, operating twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays with fares starting from £22.99
- Inverness to Newquay, taking off 11 July, operating twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays with fares starting from £22.99
- Newcastle to Jersey, taking off 10 July, operating three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with fares starting from £14.99
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has responded to the government consultation on APD and said it should NOT be reduced for domestic routes, where there is a good rail link.
“AEF expresses opposition to any reduction in taxes for an already under-taxed industry. For an industry which pays no fuel duty or VAT on tickets, APD is already too low to ensure that airlines make a fair contribution to public finances. Government should be looking at tax increases, not decreases, we argue, particularly given that flights are disproportionately taken by people on higher incomes.
“Whilst we acknowledge that domestic aviation is responsible for only a small proportion of total aviation emissions, AEF highlights that lowering APD on domestic routes signals that the Government is not taking the climate crisis seriously. It gives the wrong public message when there is a unique window of opportunity for the Government to influence behaviour post-pandemic, and in the run up to the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 later this year. Such cuts should not be considered, we argue, in the absence of the Government’s net zero aviation policy consultation, which is yet to be published.”
Treasury consulting on APD distance bands change; perhaps to 3 or 4 (just 2 now)
The Treasury has a current consultation on “Aviation Tax Reform.” Part of it is whether the level of Air Passenger Duty (APD) on domestic flights should be changed. Currently a passenger on a return domestic flight pays £13 x2 = £26, as they leave a UK airport twice. The cost is only £13 for a return flight to a European (under 2,000 miles) destination. They are also consulting about whether there should be more bands for APD for longer journeys. The government is aware that air travellers should pay more, if they fly further and thus cause the emission of more carbon. In 2008 it was decided there would be 4 distance bands with increasing APD costs; under 2,000 miles; 2,000 – 4,000; 4,000 to 6,000; and over 6,000. But in 2014 this was changed to just two bands, under and over 2,000 miles. The consultation asks if the bands should be changed; if they should revert to the 4 levels there were between 2008 and 2014; or if there should be a new system, with three bands. These would be under 2,000 miles; between 2,000 and 5,500 miles; and over 5,500 miles. There were some potential technical difficulties with very large countries – eg. the US or Russia – so only considering the capital city, to categorise the country, can be unfair. Consultation closes 15th June 2021.
EasyJet secures £1.4bn state-backed bailout to help survive the coronavirus pandemic
EasyJet has got a £1.4 billion 5-year state-backed loan to help it survive Covid. The loan has been underwritten by a group of banks; it is part-guaranteed by UK Export Finance, a government agency. Easyjet will not be able to pay dividends for the term of the loan under conditions it has agreed. The loan has been secured against aircraft, and it means the airline can reduce its £369m overdraft and deal with its other loan of £400m. This is the second British airline to get a loan part guaranteed by the UK government, as British Airways got theirs a few days earlier. Easyjet’s boss said the airline has “now secured more than £4.5billion in liquidity since the beginning of the pandemic.” The airlines are all hoping by the second half of 2021, enough people will be vaccinated that they will start flying – in their droves – once again. If there is not such a recovery, some airlines may not survive.