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The climate cost of Farnborough Airport’s plan for more private jets 

27th October, 2023

Farnborough Airport has been consulting on proposals for operational changes including an increase in the airport’s annual flight limit numbers. 

The operator, Farnborough Airport Ltd., wants to increase the cap on total permitted flights from 50,000 to 70,000 flights per year. The airport is also seeking to increase the non-weekday flight limit from 8,900 to 18,900 flights per year. This would more than double the number of flights allowed at weekends and Bank Holidays, bringing further disruption in the form of noise and air pollution to local residents. 

The airport’s own projections also show a significant increase in total emissions from the airport compared to the level today if the proposal goes ahead, but this is only part of the story. The graph below shows the impact of travelling by different modes of transport in terms of average emissions per passenger, per kilometre. Flying is clearly more polluting than taking the train, but in comparison to a short-haul flight in a commercial aircraft, a short-haul private jet flight is nearly thirteen times more polluting per passenger kilometre. In comparison to using Eurostar, a private jet is, on average, five hundred and forty times more polluting per passenger kilometre.

In addition to its high carbon intensity, a recent report by Possible, ‘Jetting away with it,’ highlighted that individuals travelling by private jet could also be paying less tax than someone on a standard flight. In fact, the report demonstrated that “under the APD system, the more polluting an individual’s flight is, the lower the effective rate of tax per tonne of emissions”.

So in addition to the local impacts on residents, consideration has to be given to the climate impact of encouraging the most climate-intensive form of travel to expand. At a time when we should be encouraging a reduction in air travel and a shift to low-emission forms of transport, enabling expansion of the most carbon-intensive travel runs starkly contrary to our climate commitments and the need for low-carbon lifestyles.

For more information on the current airport expansion plans ongoing in the UK, including Farnborough Airport, check out our Airport Expansion Tracker.