No plans yet for the weekend? Berlin-Madrid for 19 euros! Low-cost airlines are conquering the European travel market with competitive prices, and the aeroplane is fast becoming an everyday means of transport. But this has dramatic consequences for the environment as no other form of transport has such a damaging ecological effect as the aeroplane.
The recent growth in air travel is above all due to the success of budget airlines. At first sight, they do not seem to have a worse ecological effect than conventional airlines, thanks to near-full capacity usage. The root of the problem lies in the acquisition of a new, wider type of customer through aggressive prices. A two-day shopping trip to London or a relaxing weekend in Majorca would remain a luxury that few could afford without these carriers.
So, for the moment, it is still the traveller’s individual responsibility to resist frequent flying. Those who cannot, or will not, stop flying have the possibility to compensate for the negative effects of travelling by donating money to climate protection projects.
It is obvious that such voluntary initiatives will only be supported by a minority of environmentally conscious European citizens and can represent no real or credible alternative to a political solution. The coming months will show if EU states take the Kyoto protocol seriously and put a stop to cheap flights which are so costly to the environment.