Campaign for Better Transport says it is time to properly tax private jets

Private planes emit some 50 times more CO2 than trains. The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) thinks that private passengers who use private jets should start paying for the climate damage they cause.  In 2021, there were 135,505 private aircraft movements (arrivals and departures) in the UK. European private jet carbon emissions have increased by 31% since 2005, far faster than commercial aviation emissions. The UK is responsible for more than any other European country. Few of these private jet trips are necessary, and the passengers could generally use commercial flights. Depending on the trip and the plane, a passenger in a private jet might be causing the emission of between 5 and 14 times as much CO2 per as a standard class air passenger. A few flights in a private jet could emit as much as an average EU citizen in a whole year, or ordinary living.  CBT is calling for private jets to pay more. Currently they pay the same rate of APD as business or first-class passengers, with a higher rate applied to aircraft of 20 tonnes or more with fewer than 19 passengers onboard. This rate should be increased tenfold; this new ‘super’ APD tax could raise around £1.4 billion each year. VAT should also be charged.


Time to tax polluting private jets

5 January 2023

By Norman Baker (Campaign for Better Transport, CBT)

Private planes are 50 times more polluting than trains and as we face climate catastrophe, we think that private passengers should start paying for the damage they cause.

In 2021,

 there were 135,505 private aircraft movements (arrivals and departures) in the UK. That’s a heck of a lot. European private jet carbon emissions have increased by almost a third (31 per cent) since 2005, far faster than commercial aviation emissions, and here in the UK, we are responsible for almost a fifth (19 per cent), more than any other European country.

Almost none of these journeys were necessary. They are simply the super-rich showing off with their status symbols, and making the environment pay the price.

Private jets are hugely polluting, releasing between five and 14 times more harmful emissions per passenger than a commercial flight and 50 times more than the equivalent train journey. Private jets are twice as likely than commercial flights to be used for very short trips (less than 300 miles), this despite high-speed train connexions existing on 70 to 80 per cent of the top ten most popular private jet routes in Europe. At these short distances, planes are at their least efficient, thereby increasing the climate impact of these flights. In just one hour, a single private jet can emit two tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put that into perspective, the average person in the EU only emits 8.2 tonnes over an entire year.

Yet the vast majority of private flights pay no VAT and most passengers only pay the same rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD) as first or business class passengers on commercial flights, despite private jets being used by some of the world’s wealthiest people.

When you add the fact that private jet fuel, like all aviation fuel, is tax free, that’s a lot of money going untaxed.

In a country that is aiming towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050 this surely cannot be right? How can we decarbonise the transport sector if the most polluting modes of transport remain tax free and financial incentives make them more attractive?

We think it’s time that private jets paid their way when it comes to climate damage.

Currently, private jet passengers are charged the same rate of APD as business or first-class passengers, with a higher rate applied to aircraft of 20 tonnes or more with fewer than 19 passengers onboard. We think that private jet passengers ought to be subject to a higher rate of APD, a ‘super’ rate if you will, set at ten times the current higher rate for domestic and European trips – which would apply to all private jet passengers, regardless of the size or capacity of the aircraft or distance travelled.

This new ‘super’ APD tax could raise around £1.4 billion each year, that’s equivalent to the annual investment by the Scottish Government in its rail network, would almost cover Network Rail’s entire maintenance costs from last year and is more than the Government has invested across the whole of the local bus network in recent years.

We also want to see VAT applied each time a private jet lands or takes off, regardless of size or distance travelled, which would further raise between £79 million and £623 million which could be invested into public transport services around the country.

Private jets are the preserve of the super-rich. We think it’s about time that private jets started paying for the pollution they cause, with the proceeds used to help improve public transport for communities up and down the country.

A new ‘super’ rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD), charged at ten times the current higher rate per passenger, on all chartered flights would raise:

Destination bandsBand A (domestic)Band B (EU)Band C (other international)
Number of passengers in 202156,7461,789,511815,906
‘Super’ APD rate at ten times current higher rate for Band A£44,261,880£1,395,818,580£636,406,680


Total Revenue £1,440,716,866


See details of APD at 

Air Passenger Duty 

See earlier:

Climate activists target private jet airports, asking that private jet travel is reduced

Protests by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Scientist Rebellion, in the UK, have staged protests and two of the main airports that serve private jets. There were other protests in the US and in Europe, with several people arrested. Protests took place at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and also at airports in North Carolina, California and Washington State. In Europe there were protests at Schiphol in the Netherlands, Milan, Stockholm and Trondheim. The carbon emissions per passenger kilometre by users of private jets are perhaps 5-14 times as great as those in premium class seats on conventional jets, and much more than standard class passengers in a modern, full plane. With the severity of climate change becoming ever more apparent, the unnecessarily high carbon emissions by those who choose to fly in private jets are unacceptable.  These flights are not only taken by politicians, eg. attending COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, but often by  the very rich, celebrities etc.  Governments need to clamp down on this unjustifiable burning of jet fuel.