Why we are banning holidays with short internal jet flights

It’s tempting to try to pack as much into our holidays as possible, to tick off our must-see lists with lots of short breaks and flights within destinations. But we urgently need to change how we think about flying.

Since 2009 we’ve advocated that customers fly less, spend more time and make their flight worthwhile by booking a responsible holiday that benefits communities and wildlife. We’ve found it’s an approach that makes for a better holiday too, with our customers finding their trips more rewarding and relaxing when they’re not rushing around chasing a travel bucket list. We’re now going one step further. By January 2022, we won’t be selling any holidays that include internal jet flights of less than one hour.

Why? Air travel’s contribution to man-made climate change continues – in most part - unabated. Left unchecked it is estimated that aviation could contribute over a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

Plane flying overhead

Carbon offset schemes have long been touted as the get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to our holidays. Other travel companies will tell you that we can simply pay for trees to be planted – in essence pass on our carbon debt to someone else. However, trees take a long time to grow and absorb the carbon from our flights. Too long. The inescapable truth for us is that we urgently need less carbon going into our atmosphere right now. The only option is to fly less.

Banning internal jet flights of less than one hour is the next step in creating that change. With this ban, the fly-less philosophy becomes an integrated part of the holidays we offer to our customers. We’re also working hard to increase the number of holidays we offer in Europe – we now have 2472 – and many of these are accessible by rail. Some will still require a flight, of course, but for our European customers this will be much shorter than a long haul destination.

We’ll be working on increasing the number of flight-free holidays we have available too – trips which are accessible by rail or by sea – and to increase the number of accommodations which use renewable energy . What we eat on holiday is important as well. A plant-based diet has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of your food by up to 75% - with intensive farming for meat and dairy one of the primary causes for wild habitat loss and mass wildlife extinction. Our selection of vegan and vegetarian holidays continues to grow to help you choose a plant-based option on holiday. And we’ll continue to lobby for a Green Flying Duty, a reformed Air Passenger Duty tax ring-fenced for investment into sustainable aviation fuels, electric flights and improved affordable rail travel.

A drive to reduce the carbon footprint of all our holidays underpins everything we do. We’re committed to reducing the carbon emissions per passenger on our holidays by 55% by 2030. However, we will still be offering holidays with flights and holidays to long haul destinations. Why? We have customers all over the world – what is long haul for one of our customers will be next-door to another – and we believe that responsible tourism can be a powerful tool in supporting local communities and in restoring vital habitats.

There are millions of people globally who rely on tourism for survival. Done well, responsible tourism not only creates employment opportunities but funds training programmes which lift people out of the poverty cycle. It can build schools, champion women’s rights, and give marginalised people a voice. In assigning a tangible economic value to wild habitats, nature-based responsible tourism has a key role to play in the restoration and protection of our natural spaces. If we are to hit the global target of protecting 30% of the planet’s forests, oceans, grasslands and other wild places – all needed to sequester (absorb) carbon from our atmosphere – by 2030, nature-based tourism will be needed more than ever.

Climate change scientists are not asking for us all to stop flying altogether – in fact the UK Climate Change Committee suggests limiting demand for flights to no more than 25% above 2019 levels by 2050 – but we do all need to fly less.

What we’re asking of you, our customers, is to think differently about how you travel. We encourage you to take fewer holidays that involve flights and to stay longer when you do fly. Look at holidays closer to home – one thing the pandemic has highlighted is the variety of unique, interesting places that we can overlook on our doorstep – and try to swap flights for rail journeys where possible. When you do fly, make it worthwhile by booking a responsible holiday that actively benefits local communities and wildlife.

What can you do to curb your carbon? Watch our film.

Written by Justin Francis