The number of people opposing air travel on environmental grounds is in decline, despite criticism over plans for expansion at Heathrow, according to new figures.

A report published by the Department for Transport found that more people supported new runways than actively opposed airport expansion.

The study, based on an analysis of the 2016 British Social Attitudes Survey, found that 45% agreed that “people should be able to travel by plane as much as they like, even if new terminals or runways are needed”.

In 2010 the number of people opposed to and favouring airport expansion was closer, the study said. Opposition to new terminals or runways increased to 31% in 2010, then declined again to 19% last year.

Unwillingness to for people to reduce the number of flights they take has increased since 2011. About two thirds (64%) believe that people should be able to travel by aircraft as much as they like.

However, 46% agreed or strongly agreed that “the price of a plane ticket should reflect the environmental damage that flying causes, even if this makes air travel more expensive”.

Only 20% supported unlimited flights if these harm the environment.

The number of people who said they were willing to cut air travel to reduce climate change was at 21%, while 37% were unwilling to do so, The Times reported.