Aviation is not just an environmental issue. Just like almost all environmental issues there are many social inequalities surrounding aviation induced emissions and pollution. Only 2- 3% of the global population participate in international air travel. In the UK the richest 5th of the population take half of all flights, while the poorer half take only a fifth. The UK taxpayer even subsidises the aviation industry by around £9 billion per year in fuel tax exemptions, while the poorest in the UK can’t even afford to heat their homes due to high fuel prices. Aviation benefits the very wealthiest the most, while the least well off pay disproportionately. On top of all that, airports are generally located in low income areas so it is those who benefit the least from flying who suffer the noise, health effects and pollution planes produce.
The New Economics Foundation report ‘Plane Truths’ outlines the many social inequalities associated with flying and airport expansion.
“The advent of no-frills carriers does not appear to have had a notable impact in terms of the income profile of passengers. In fact, the profile of UK leisure passengers is similar between no-frills carriers and full-service carriers, and has changed little over the last decade, and although numbers of leisure passengers from all income groups has increased, the majority of the absolute increase has come from those in higher and middle income and socio-economic groups” Civil Aviation Authority, from the Plane Truths report.