Make the plane greener ?

Make the plane greener ?

January 30, 2023 0 By Michel Santi


The loyalty programs of aviation companies (frequent flyer program) are 40 years old. They were first created in 1979 by the now defunct Texas International Airlines. Eager to give impetus to its stagnant clientele and to give luster to its brand, the solution advocated – and followed little by little by others – was to ensure the loyalty of its customers by offering them a credit on flights. future. By purchasing their ticket, passengers would earn miles proportional to their number of flights with this same company which would allow them to be exchanged later for a free flight or an upgrade.


The find turned out to be extraordinarily juicy for frequent travelers who were highly courted by the various companies and for good reason! Imperial College London recently calculated that with 42 million annual flights, passengers on planes circle the Earth 4 billion times a year. A lucrative operation, therefore, for both passengers and aviation companies.


At a time when air flights (at least on short journeys) are stigmatized, why not simply abolish these loyalty programs so as not to encourage – or even push – users to take the plane more often than they want or need? Wouldn’t it be both more logical and healthier to curb this excessive consumption of planes in this way (about 10% more flights entirely due to these loyalty cards) by not openly encouraging passengers through these free miles? It would be much more decent for the planet and for all those who never or rarely fly to completely abolish these programs, because maintaining them amounts to remunerating people when they contribute to further degrading our environment.


Doesn’t a Paris-New York return trip consume as much CO2 as an entire year of heating for the average European? A fact, a figure that demonstrates our inequality in the face of air travel: in Europe, 20% of passengers take around 75% of the available flights.


But it’s not just the free flights obtained through these programs that pose a problem, because upgrades to Business or First class are just as harmful given their obviously much larger carbon footprint than that of a passenger in Economy in view of the much larger space occupied. The International Council on Clean Transportation consortium has calculated that a Business passenger consumes two to three more carbon depending on the aircraft than an Economy passenger.


It is therefore a veritable ecological carnage hanging over us because no less than 30 billion unused miles are currently credited to the loyalty cards of all companies, according to a McKinsey analysis. Enough to offer a ticket to almost all of the 4.5 billion passengers who fly annually.


Why not take inspiration from the recommendations of the International Council on Clean Transportation and – rather than prevent those who wish to fly – create a program which would be the exact opposite and which would penalize the very frequent flyers? A kind of progressive tax which would be levied on those who fly often and which would inevitably have the effect of reducing emissions from aircraft while better distributing flights.

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