It’s sad about Flybe, but we cannot be sentimental when it comes to our climate, says customer director at Responsible Travel, Tim Williamson
As emergency talks about the fate of Flybe continue, there’s a sense of déjà vu. We have been here before with Thomas Cook, Monarch and XL. The situation is the same. The only reason why Flybe is being treated differently is that it’s a regional carrier.
The fact is, Flybe is a failing business in an over-supplied market. If the government defers the owed APD payments for three years – payments thought to exceed £100m – it will only help in the short-term. It won’t make fuel prices go down, it won’t make competitors disappear, and it won’t make Flybe a financially viable airline.
I worked at Monarch, so I know what this looks like from the inside. I’m sure that Flybe has been through its cost base with a fine-tooth comb as we did, but if your yields and load factor are under pressure then there is no long-term future unless you can somehow create more demand or a competing airline goes bust.
So yes, Flybe should be allowed to fail. It’s a terrible thing for more than 2,400 employees – as it was for the great Monarch staff – but Flybe won’t survive on a government bailout for long.
‘Put climate crisis front of mind’
The government has also proposed to review APD before the March Budget to help Flybe and other domestic airlines. Compare that to the German government, which decided to increase the tax on domestic and European airfares by 75% and use funds to subsidise rail travel.
When you have the climate crisis at the front of your mind – as the government, and all of us, should have – considering cutting APD is completely counter intuitive. Domestic aviation, especially, should be largely unnecessary.
There are a few select UK routes that rely on a flight – and I can see an argument for selected subsidies here, where there is no alternative. But paying an airline to run these routes to keep regional connectivity makes a lot more sense than giving all domestic carriers a tax break and potentially encouraging them to increase domestic capacity.
‘We must take action soon’
We’ve been strongly pushing for an increase in APD to slow demand and make us all think about every flight we take. We want this increased tax to help fund the development of sustainable aviation faster.
There is also an argument that an increased APD could fund the subsidies required to keep places like Newquay and the Isle of Man connected to the rest of the UK. The nature of short-haul small aircraft means that sustainable domestic flying is a real possibility in the medium term.
It’s sad about Flybe, but we cannot be sentimental when it comes to our climate and planet. We don’t have long to try to stop the irreversible damage we are doing by creating greenhouse gases like C02, and we know flying is becoming one of the worst culprits for this. We must take action, soon, and stop supporting failing, highly polluting domestic airlines.
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