So what is this all about then?
It is all about FLAP, a non-judgemental system/scheme for reducing global air travel to help save the planet.
Do we really need to reduce air travel? I've heard it only accounts for 2% of global emissions after all. Surely carbon-offsetting, biofuels and electric planes will save us?
Sadly not. Take a look at Figures 8.1 (p606) and 8.3 (p608) in ICC 2018 Report Chapter 8 to get a better idea of air travel's significant and rapidly increasing contribution to global CO2 emissions. This short article by United Kingdom Green Party MP Caroline Lucas explains why flying less is the only viable solution. This article by George Monbiot, also short, explains why biofuels in particular are such a very bad idea.
Blimey I haven't got time to read all that stuff. Just tell me about FLAP so I can get on with my day.
Sure. It is a scheme and computer system for reducing air travel. It works as follows:
- FLAP maintains a distance account, analogous to a bank account, for every "traveller". Each account has a balance in kilometres, which starts at zero.
- Airlines withdraw the distance of each flight from a traveller's distance account at check-in.
- The "daily allowance" defines a total distance in kilometres. Every day FLAP credits the account for each overdrawn traveller with an equal share of the daily allowance.
- Overdrawn travellers are not allowed to start a new trip: the airline refuses any attempt to check-in.
Is that it? My <insert-single-digit-number-here> year old could have come up with that.
It was much more complicated to begin with. I kept removing bits until it didn't work any more and then reinstated the last bit we removed. In other words I put a lot of effort into making it that simple.
Oh dear. I think you may have been wasting your time. You said FLAP is "non-judgemental". What do you mean by that?
I mean that FLAP does not aim to judge, stigmatise or penalise those who fly. Instead it aims to engage positively with them to achieve the necessary goal of reducing air travel. Most significantly:
- No financial penalty or incentive is involved - a key benefit over frequent flyer tax schemes like A Free Ride.
- Everyone adheres to the same rules regardless of how often they fly.
- No restriction is placed on the amount any one person can fly.
Well all I see is a few bullet points in a dull colour scheme. How can you be so sure how this thing would pan out in practice?
Because I have wasted more of my time implementing it, implementing a global air traffic model to exercise it, and analysing the results. The system and model code are available on Github. Go to Modelling for a summary of the findings.
Hang on a minute. I have to fly frequently for my work and family reasons. These results prove your scheme is unfairly targetting people like me.
As I have explained FLAP is non-judgemental and does not target any particular category of traveller. However the fact is 70% of flights are taken by 15% of travellers, meaning air travel can only be signficiantly reduced through a change in behaviour of that 15%. This is not unfair targetting but basic arithmetic.
Look stop now. This just won't work. You can't realistically expect airlines to report every single check-in across the whole world. Even if they could thousands of people will end up stranded in airports far from home. And how on earth can I make firm travel plans when I could be turned away at check-in at any point. And what about blah, and blah, and blah blah blah?
Well I wasted even more of my time writing this white paper considering these and many other aspects, which you are welcome to read, but specifically:
- We know airlines can report all check-ins back to a central system because they are already doing it!
- FLAP only refuses check-ins at the start of a trip, and its definition of what constitutes a trip is flexible. Someone would have to push this definition to its extreme limit before being at any risk of becoming stranded.
- A feature called "clearance promises" provides certainty about when the next Trip can begin, allows for Trips to be bunched together and genearlly makes FLAP very easy to use.
My you have been busy. But really, you're focussing on the wrong thing here. Figure 8.1 clearly shows road travel is a far bigger problem than air travel.
They are both a problem, but yes you are right. We need a practical plan for reducing road travel too. I believe that the principles guiding FLAP can be applied, but it is a bit trickier.