Holidaymakers should pay £585 taxes for frequent flights, say Greens

An aeroplane takes off at Manchester Airport taking people on holiday
The Green Party wants to punish people who take many flights a year with additional taxes - iStockphoto

Holidaymakers taking frequent flights should face taxes of up to £585, the Green Party has said.

In its 2024 manifesto, launched on Wednesday, the party pledged to introduce a new “frequent flyer levy” to deter tourists from taking carbon-heavy trips abroad, as part of its plans to tackle climate change.

Other pledges in the party’s plan for power include ending immigration detention for all migrants unless they pose a danger to public safety, moving to a four-day working week, and introducing universal basic income in the long term.

The party would scrap Trident, phase out nuclear energy, and abolish the Prevent anti-terror programme and the Tories’ new protest laws.

Adrian Ramsay, the party’s co-leader, said it was still exploring options for how to apply the frequent flyer charge.

One potential model would tax holidaymakers flying more than once a year, starting at a rate of £25 for the second flight.

The Greens launch their 2024 manifesto at Sussex CCC
The Greens launch their 2024 manifesto at Sussex CCC on Wednesday morning unveiling a raft of tax-raising policies - Alishia Abodunde/Getty

In this scenario, drawn up by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), a Left-wing think tank, the cost per flight would increase incrementally, up to a maximum of £585 for the tenth trip.

Business passengers would have to pay the tax from their first flight each year and face higher charges across the board, up to £700 for the tenth journey.

Mr Ramsay insisted the idea was to target people “flying all the time”, rather than “the average family”.

He told The Telegraph: “We’ve highlighted that a frequent flyer levy is something that we could bring in to address the fact that people who fly frequently have very high carbon footprints.

“This is not intended to affect the average family. So people who fly on holiday once a year would not be charged extra, because we’re talking about frequent fliers, and actually just 15 per cent of the population take 70 per cent of the flights.

“So we’re talking about business people or people who have wealth and fly frequently.”

He said the Greens “haven’t set out a specific proposal for exactly how it would work”, but pointed to the NEF model as one example.

He added: “The key here is the word frequent… the people who are flying all the time, not the ordinary family that’s having one or two holidays a year”.

Meanwhile, the Green Party said that it would invest heavily in public transport to make it easier and cheaper for people to go on holiday in Britain.

Their plans include bringing the railways back into public ownership, introducing free bus travel for under-18s and investing £2.5 billion a year in new cycleways and footpaths.

The party would also ban all domestic flights where the journey would take less than three hours by train and halt the expansion of new airport capacity.

Asked if he would ultimately like to see domestic flights scrapped completely, Mr Ramsay said: “We’ve proposed our vision for the next five years, which is all you can do when there’s a general election, to say what you think is achievable in the next parliament.

“But aviation has a high carbon impact, particularly from those who are frequent fliers, who are 15 per cent of people taking 70 per cent of the flights. We need to find a way of addressing that in a way that recognises the environmentally friendly option needs to be the cheapest and most convenient.”

Adrian Ramsay, the co-leader, launches the Green Party manifesto
Adrian Ramsay, the co-leader, launches the Green Party manifesto - Getty

To fund its spending plans, the Green Party pledged to introduce a new wealth tax of 1 per cent on assets above £10 million and of 2 per cent on those above £1 billion.

It would also hike taxes for middle earners by raising the national insurance rate on annual wages of £50,270 and above from 2 per cent to 8 per cent.

The Greens said this would amount to a “modest” £5 tax rise per week for those earning £55,000, or around £260 per year.

The party said these changes, together with reforms to capital gains tax and the rates paid on investment income, would raise between £50 billion and £70 billion per year.

Carbon tax

A new carbon tax would raise up to an additional £80 billion, according to the manifesto.

Speaking at the manifesto launch at Sussex County Cricket Club in Hove, Mr Ramsay said the party was “realistic” that it did “not expect to form the next government”.

But he said “we plan to be there in Parliament in greater numbers” to hold Labour to account “when the Conservatives are booted out of No 10 on July 4”.

He added: “With more Green MPs in Parliament, we will push Labour to stop backtracking on their promises.

“We will be there to drive them to be braver, to be more ambitious, not to take timid baby steps towards change but to actually do what’s necessary to fix our country and get us back on track.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that the plans would see the size of the state increase on “an unprecedented scale”, with taxes rising by £170 billion per year.

Helen Miller, the deputy director at the think tank, said: “Even taking their figures at face value, overall borrowing would end up around £80 billion a year higher and we could expect debt to be rising throughout the next Parliament.”

Ms Miller also said it was “unlikely” that the party’s proposed tax rises would generate the amount claimed and “certainly not without real economic cost”.

These are all the key policies in the Green Party manifesto:

Tax

The manifesto pledges to raise the National Insurance rate to 8 per cent on annual wages above £50,270, and bring in a wealth tax of 1 per cent annually on assets above £10 million and of 2 per cent on those above £1 billion.

The party would also introduce a carbon tax “to drive fossil fuels out of our economy and raise money to invest in the green transition”.

Housing

The Greens have promised to provide 150,000 new social homes every year and a “fair deal for renters” by giving powers to local authorities to introduce rent control measures.

Transport

To cut carbon emissions, the Greens would push for a frequent-flyer levy, a ban on domestic flights for journeys that would take less than three hours by train, and a halt to the expansion of new airport capacity.

To make it easier to get around the UK, the party would invest in an additional £19 billion over five years to improve public transport, support electrification and create new cycleways and footpaths.

It would also bring the railways back into public ownership and introduce free bus travel for under-18s.

Defence

The Greens would “immediately” begin the process of dismantling Britain’s nuclear weapons, scrapping Trident and removing all foreign nuclear weapons from UK soil.

The party is committed to current levels of defence spending, but would invest the nuclear funds in troops instead, as well as the Army’s humanitarian work around the world.

Migration

The Greens would end immigration detention for all migrants unless they are a danger to public safety, and allow those seeking asylum to work while their application is being considered.

The party would end the “hostile environment” and replace the “dysfunctional” Home Office with a new Department of Migration, separating this function from the criminal justice system.

It would introduce new “safe routes to sanctuary for those fleeing persecution”.

Work

The Green Party would move to a four-day working week and increase the minimum wage to £15 an hour for all ages.

It would also repeal current “anti-union legislation” and introduce a “right to strike” with a legal obligation for all employers to recognise trade unions.

Workers would receive equal employment rights from day one, including those working in the “gig economy” and on zero-hours contracts.

Energy

The party has pledged to stop “all new fossil fuel projects”, and cancel recently agreed licences for developments such as Rosebank, the oil and gas field off the Scottish coast.

It would also phase out nuclear energy, which it claims is “unsafe and much more expensive than renewables”. The Greens argue nuclear power stations are “too slow” to keep up with the climate crisis, create “unmanageable quantities of radioactive waste” and are “inextricably linked with the production of nuclear weapons”.

The party would invest £40 billion per year in the shift to a green economy over the course of the next parliament.

And it would bring water companies and the “Big 5” retail energy companies into public ownership.

Education

The Greens would increase school funding by £8 billion, including a £2 billion pay rise for teachers.

Tuition fees would be abolished, as would Ofsted, the schools inspectorate.

Human rights

The party would scrap the Prevent programme and “seek to restore trust and confidence in the police”.

The Tories’ Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act would be abolished, along with the Public Order Act and other legislation that “erodes the right to protest and free expression”. However, the party would not seek to repeal sentences for climate protesters.

It would also campaign for the right of self-identification for trans and non-binary people.