Cheap air travel in Europe is destroying the planet, says Greenpeace

cheap air travel

European holidaymakers have long been spoilt by cheap air travel options, and Greenpeace says these pollution-creating habits are wrecking the planet. So what’s the solution?

In a bombshell report released on 20th July, the environmental organisation revealed that European airfares are far less expensive than their less-polluting train counterparts, and that “outrageous” tax breaks for airlines are fuelling this practice.   

In total, Greenpeace considered 112 popular routes and found that in only 23 was train travel a more cost-effective option.  For example, the cost of a plane ticket from London to Barcelona is 30 times cheaper than on a train.

This stems from Europe’s airlines paying little VAT and no tax at all on kerosene, which goes some way to keeping costs down for passengers.

A study published earlier this month by eco-organisation Transport and Environment found that European governments lost out on a potential €34.2 billion due to a lack of proper taxation on aviation in 2022. This figure is set to rise to €47.1 billion by 2025.  


The desire to jump on a plane and escape to a holiday destination is something felt by millions each year and this, says Greenpeace, needs to stop.  

“Aviation is one of the world’s most climate-damaging and inequitable industries,” reads the Greenpeace report. “While only 1% of the world’s population is responsible for more than half of global climate emissions from aviation, the consequences affect everyone around the world, from extreme weather events to pollution-related illnesses and disruption from noise.” 

The report gets to the crux of the issue by stating the obvious: “One of the reasons people choose to fly rather than travel by train is price: why would anyone take the train from London to Barcelona and pay up to €384 when air tickets are available for the ridiculously low price of €12.99? Citizens deserve to have access to a clean, efficient and affordable transport system that does not harm the climate, people and our planet.” 


Paris-based International Energy Agency, headed up by the energy ministers of predominantly wealthy countries, has called on law makers to “tax aviation according to impact, acknowledging that only a minority of the world flies”, as well as suggesting that airlines start utilising sustainable aviation fuel options. 

Greenpeace, meanwhile, wants to see a shift from subsidised air travel tickets to train tickets and proposes “national, simple and affordable climate tickets.”  

France is making some efforts towards this transition and the country recently initiated a ban on short-haul flights for any journey that can be taken by train in less than 2.5 hours. The ban, which came into effect on 23rd May, also includes a crackdown on private jets.   


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Photo source: Mark Stuckey, Unsplash