Research reveals public’s challenge for industry to deliver sustainable flying

15 August 2019

Improving aviation’s impact on the environment is a pressing and growing concern for the flying public, according to NATS’ annual study of attitudes to flying.   

A total of 60% of those asked as part of NATS’ Aviation Index wanted to see reducing emissions made the top priority for the aviation industry, an increase of eight percentage points on the previous year. There is also evidence of growing willingness to pay some form of climate change levy on the price of a plane ticket – something many airlines already offer in the form of carbon off-sets – the proportion agreeing rising from 30% to 38%. 

Yet despite mounting concern about aviation’s environmental sustainability, the number of people who believe flying should be discouraged fell from 47% to 40%even if this might have a negative impact on the environment 

The research  carried out by Ipsos MORI – coincides with what NATS expects to be the busiest summer on record for flights in the UK.   

Ian Jopson, NATS Head of Environment, said: “What these results show us is that people are concerned about the real impact aviation has on our environment, but that flying and global connectivity is also totally intrinsic to our way of life and will be even more so after Brexit. What’s needed is a way to radically improve the efficiency of every flight, part of which is down to more efficient aircraft, but we can also make a big contribution by transforming how our airspace is structured and managed.” 

Offering flights smooth, continuous descents and direct routes that burn less fuel is one way NATS is already helping reduce the environmental impact of aviation, something that’s enabled savings of 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 since 2006, but is clear that more now needs to be done. 

Jopson continues, “We’ve managed to do some great work improving flight efficiency, but as the skies get busier what’s needed now is a more radical wholesale redesign of the UK’s flight paths and air routes, many  of which were originally designed 50 years ago for aircraft you now need to visit a museum to see.” 

NATS alongside many of the UK’s major airports will be bringing forward proposals for how to modernise the UK’s airspace at the end of next year to help radically improve flight efficiency. Measures are likely to include keeping aircraft higher for longer and cutting the amount for fuel-thirsty low-level stack holding at airports 

The Aviation Index is NATS’ annual temperature check survey of public opinions on aviation related topics, from the impact of Brexit to safety and travel preferences. The full report can be read at  

Note to editors

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,012 adults in the UK aged 18+ between 4 and 7 March 2019. Interviews were conducted online through the Ipsos MORI Online Panel. Data are weighted to be representative of the UK population. Trend results are based on the previous Aviation Index survey, where Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,002 adults in the UK aged 18+ between 16 and 22 November 2017, with data weighted to the same profile.  

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