It’s cheap to fly: you can go up and down to Spain for a couple of ten. But how fair is that price? The sustainable travel organization Better Places also wondered that. They teamed up with the Impact Institute and were the first to calculate the real cost of flying.
Five hundred and eighty euros. This is the price you have to pay on top of your ticket from Amsterdam to Bangkok. These are the costs of the climate damage and air pollution your return trip to a holiday country entails. The price you now pay for a plane ticket does not include the cost of the negative effects of your flight. While these costs are there for other or future generations. Just think of the health costs for people who develop lung problems due to air pollution. Add the price of the negative effects to the price you are paying now and you know what the real price is.
Better choice of the real price
Founder Saskia Griep explains: “We see that the effects of climate change are becoming more and more extreme, and the time to prevent worse is running out. CO2compensation was a good idea but it doesn’t work. We must fly less.” Travelers can now see the real cost of transport to their holiday country on the Better Places website. “We hope that travelers will make different choices when they see the effects of their air travel on the environment and society. For example, by going to Spain by train, because the real price of a train ticket is much lower than the real price of a plane ticket.”
Part of a wider movement
Informing consumers about the real price of products has accelerated in recent years. There are already supermarkets that display real prices of products on the shelf. Besides food, there are also examples in clothing, such as the real price of a pair of jeans. The True Price organization has been investigating the hidden costs of products and services for years. Michel Scholte, co-founder of True Price, says: “Awareness of the real price of our purchases has definitely come through; now it is important to actually do the calculations. And the question is, of course, what are we going to do with it. When travelling, try to travel shorter distances and take the train where possible.”
Hidden costs of flying
Better Places has used the True Price method to calculate the real price of flights. The calculations were performed based on the True Price Framework and costs were then determined using the True Price revenue factors. Saskia: “We first had to find out which hidden costs we wanted to identify. From the long list, we have chosen the two most important for now: contribution to climate change and air pollution.” For Saskia, this is only the beginning. “There are costs that we cannot calculate at the moment, but it is important. Think of health damage caused by noise nuisance or loss of biodiversity. Including these costs in the real price is the next step.”
Flying only for the elite
Saskia often hears the concern that more expensive plane tickets are only affordable for the very rich. “Flying has always been for the elite. Even with cheap plane tickets, eighty percent of the world’s population has never flown. In the Netherlands, eight percent of the population make forty percent of the flights. At the same time, it is the poorest people who will feel the worst consequences of the global heating. It’s only fair if frequent flyers pay the right price. Or even better: fly less.” In Saskia’s case, the price can be raised considerably: “Then train tickets automatically become more attractive. The extra money can be used for innovation and to remedy the damage caused by flying.”
Not more expensive, but more sustainable
So far, the travel agency mainly uses the real price for awareness. “The purpose of the real price is not to make everything more expensive, but to make products and services less harmful. For that, you first need to know what the hidden costs are. The less damage that occurs in production and execution, the lower the real price. Calculating the real price of your plane ticket is the first step towards a fairer system with the ultimate goal of a livable planet for all.”