Would banning frequent flyer programs help the planet?

We’re slowly getting used to sacrificing once-beloved traditions for the environment, like drinking from plastic straws and cooking on gas stoves. Could racking up miles through frequent flyer programs be the next to go?

Boarding a plane will probably be the single most carbon-intensive thing you do this year. And while some climate activists are opting out of flying, few are ready to go to that extreme. In fact, consumer demand for air travel is growing fast, on schedule to double in the next two decades, and improvements in airplane efficiency have not kept pace.

One U.K. researcher made headlines this month by proposing a provocative solution: a ban on frequent flyer programs.

The suggestion came in a report commissioned by the U.K. Committee on Climate Change geared at changing consumer behavior through policy. It’s predicated on the idea that frequent flyer programs stimulate demand by encouraging members to take extra flights to earn rewards or maintain a privileged status. “The norm of unlimited flying being acceptable needs to be challenged,” wrote the study’s author.

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