A leading environmental group has urged the government to save £100 million on flights by ministers and civil servants as part of austerity measures.


WWF-UK, formerly the World Worldlife Fund, says ministers could axe 600,000 “unnecessary flights” over three years simply by following best practice in business. A WWF-UK study of government flying over the past three years found 90% of flights were within the UK.


The report, Excess Baggage: The case for reducing government flying, was published today. It identified London-Edinburgh and London-Belfast as the most frequent routes used by ministers and officials, and Brussels, Geneva, Luxembourg and Strasbourg as the main destinations for government business outside the UK. The WWF insists: “All are reachable or replaceable by train, ferry or videoconferencing.”


Of 22 departments contacted by the charity’s researchers, less than half had taken fewer flights in 2009 than 2007. The report ranks Revenue and Customs and the Department of Health as the worst performers, and reports the Department of Energy and Climate Change spent £715,000 on 1,378 flights last year, half of them domestic.


The Department for Education and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were the best performers.


WWF-UK director of campaigns David Norman said: “Businesses have done everything to cut wasteful spending on unnecessary flights during the recession, yet very few government departments have made similar efforts.


“It’s shocking that nine out of ten flights by government officials are to destinations within the UK. Defra and the Department for Education have reduced flight costs by 39% over three years. It’s time for the rest of government to catch up.”


The charity launched a campaign last year to sign up major companies to cut one in five business flights in five years. The Scottish government announced this week it would join the WWF One in Five Challenge.