The loyalty programme of aviation companies like the frequent flyer programme is 40 years old. There were first created in 1979 by the now-defunct Texas International Airlines. Eager to give impetus to its stagnant clientele and add lustre to the brand, the solution advocated ensured loyalty of its customers by offering them credit points on flights. This was slowly adopted by other airlines. By purchasing their ticket, passengers would earn miles proportional to their number of flights within the same airline, which would allow them to be exchanged later for a free flight or an upgrade.
The result turned out to be extraordinarily attractive for frequent travellers who were highly courted by the various companies and for good reason! Recently, Imperial College London calculated that with 42 million annual flights, passengers on planes would circle the Earth four billion times a year. This is a lucrative operation for both passengers and aviation companies.
At a time when short-haul flights are stigmatised, why not simply abolish these loyalty programmes so as not to encourage — or even push — users to take the plane more often than they should or need? It would be more logical and healthier to curb this excessive consumption of planes by not openly encouraging passengers through these free miles. There are about 10 per cent more flights entirely due to these loyalty programmes. Doing this, it would be more beneficial for the planet and for all those who never or rarely fly to make redundant of these programmes because maintaining them amounts to remunerating people when they contribute to further degrading our environment.
A return trip between Paris-New York consumes as much CO2 as an entire year of heating for the average European. Furthermore, 20 per cent of passengers take around 75 per cent of the available flights, showing the inequality in the face of fair travel.
Not only are the free flights contained through these programmes that pose a problem, updates to Busines or First Class are just as harmful given the obviously 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 calculated that a Business passenger consumes two or three more carbon depending on the aircraft than an Economy passenger.
According to an analysis by McKinsey, a veritable ecological carnage hangs over us because no less than 30 billion unused miles are currently credited to the loyalty cards of all companies. The amount of miles is 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.
Looking at the other side of the issue, why not take inspiration from the recommendations of the International Council on Clean Transportation? Rather than preventing those who wish to fly, create a programme which would be the exact opposite and penalise the very frequent flyers. It is like a kind of progressive tax that would be levied on those who fly often and this would inevitably have the effect of reducing emissions from aircraft while better distributing flights.
For more information about Michel Santi, visit his website: michelsanti.fr/en
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