Cancel Preloader

Hurricane Hilary, It’s All Ben And Gary’s Fault… – Live and Let's Fly

Flooding in Palm Springs. Mudslides in Los Angeles. Sink holes in the Antelope Valley. An earthquake. A hurricane. What a weekend. Let’s blame Ben and Gary and all those other horrible frequent flyers.

Should Frequent Flyer Programs (And Private Jets) Be Banned?

Helen Coffey of the UK Independent asks, “Should frequent flyer schemes still exist when the climate is in crisis?” She’s not happy that “research” reveals that you will have to 34 times your “entire lifetime carbon budget” in order to reach top tier status in an airline program.

(She doesn’t reveal which loyalty program she is talking about or who assigned us a lifetime carbon budget…)

“She blames “increasingly savvy” online communities which “have sprung up to cater to this new breed of loyalty scheme ‘gameification’, such as The Points Guy, Head for Points, One Mile at a Time, View From the Wing and Inside Flyer.”

Gary, Ben, and Brian: your social credit score is not looking so good these days.

Coffey then laments the difference between points and tier points (which is a British way of saying what we have traditionally distinguished as redeemable miles and elite status miles).

What she fails to understand is that switching to a revenue-based frequent flyer model, as British Airways is doing, does not necessarily encourage more flying since you can now earn elite status with far fewer flights or distance traveled. In fact, most can earn status with far less flying.


She cites a study called Pointless: the climate impact of frequent flyer status, by a terrorist organization called Possible that wants to ban people from flying. Maybe they should just come out and say that China and India should be banned too…

Alethea Warrington, a senior campaigner at Possible, starts with a premise that simply validates the changes airlines have made to their frequent flyer programs:

“We need urgent action to protect the climate, but frequent flyer reward programmes are sending emissions soaring in the wrong direction. Airlines are incentivising a small group of incredibly frequent flyers to take flights they don’t even want, just to get points – while people around the world pay the real price as they face dangerous heat waves and out of control wildfires. Airlines need to end this irresponsible behaviour, and stop awarding points for pollution.”

The idea that airlines are incentivizing flyers to take unnecessary flights is far less prevalent when you can earn elite status simply by spending a high amount of cash on a small number of tickets (as many did already) without having to fly a high number of miles or segments to reach the goal (which becomes additive in many cases).

Yes indeed, the weather patterns have not been comforting in many cases. The risks of climate change are something we should take seriously through aggressive investment in technology like carbon capture which may be able to counteract.

Possible wants frequent flyers programs banned in the UK and its wants a frequent flyer tax levied against those who fly regularly.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have both said “thanks but no thanks” and noted all the benefits of air travel, insisting that the baby not be thrown out with the bathwater. I think this British Airways video perfectly sums up why flying is so important:


I’m feeling the impact of the changing climate in a very big way this morning (you think last week was bad?…stay tuned)

The author claims that “aviation is already an elite activity – and flying enough to qualify for top tier FFP status is elite as it gets” and wonders, “Isn’t it time the biggest emitters paid the price rather than getting a pat on the back?”

The answer, though, is not to ban frequent flyer programs (or devalue them) or to ban jet travel or cap the number of flights a person can take each year. No. Flying makes the world go round. There has to be a better way. Efforts spent on technology will be more fruitful, because no one is going to cut back.

If it was not patently obvious, I don’t blame OMAAT and VFTW for the climate crisis…

image: Emirates


Related post