News | Published September 28 2019

Top 10% of frequent flyers responsible for half of all UK flights

According to Department of Transport figures obtained by the Guardian, one per cent of English citizens are responsible for taking one fifth of all flights abroad. 

Beyond this, the top 10 per cent of the most frequent flyers in England contributed to half of all international flights in 2018.

These statistics have been used to support the argument for the introduction of a frequent flyer levy, a policy advocated by the Committee on Climate Change. 

Under this proposal, each UK citizen would be allocated one tax free flight per year with every flight beyond this being charged taxes at an increasingly high rate.

There is currently no country in the world in which travellers pay an escalating levy.

This proposal formed part of a report from the Committee on Climate Change which argued that tougher regulations were needed, especially relating to aviation and shipping, if the government is to be able to meet its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

During last week’s Labour conference, the Labour party went further and pledged to transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2030.

Originally published in a Department for Transport survey, these figures were obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information request.

In 2017, the aviation sector was responsible for 7 per cent of the UK’s total emission and it is predicted to become the biggest source by 2050 due to the increasing demand for flights.

Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green party, responded to these statistics by welcoming the proposed levy and stating that such a policy would only affect “people who fly again and again.”

She added: “A progressive tax on most frequent flyers is a fair policy that most people would come behind if the government put it forward.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Tackling climate change is one of the most urgent and pressing challenges that we face. Which is why this government has set a bold 2050 net zero target for the UK and a greener aviation industry will play a key role in that.

“The government is funding the future of flight and have announced £5 million in funding for new technologies like electric and autonomous aircraft to help us tackle climate change. We are working with our partners to ensure the government takes a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector.” 

Related Stories

Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
September 28 2019

Featured Organisations


Copart was founded in California in 1982, listed on NASDAQ in 1994 and became a S&P 500 company in 2018. It has invested around £250 million in the UK... Read more

Glebe House Project

Based in Loughborough, Leicestershire, Glebe House has supported children and adults with learning disabilities for over 30 years. The charity was cre... Read more

The Black Arts Company

Eschewing the size of most advertising agencies, The Black Arts Company have chosen to remain small and agile, allowing them to focus with great atten... Read more

Latest News