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Negative Externalities That the Airline Industry Produces

Updated July 19, 2017

When purchasing an aeroplane ticket, a passenger may determine whether the benefits of air travel outweigh the costs. The airline industry's activities result in external effects that have no bearing on the price of a ticket, however, and affect everyone, including those who make a conscious decision not to travel by air.

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Environmental Price

The environmental price of flying is calculated into the price of a ticket only if a passenger volunteers to pay an additional fee in order to reduce his personal carbon footprint. For example, Air Canada gives a passenger the option of paying an extra fee to offset carbon emissions from his flight. This contribution is not mandatory and the carrier's emissions keep increasing, according to RDC Aviation, an airline consulting firm, as reported by the newsletter GreenAir. In 2009 flights operated by Air Canada emitted 1,883,218 tons of carbon into the atmosphere, representing a 2.12 per cent increase in emissions compared to figures from 2008. While CO2 emissions declined in Europe in 2009, so did the number of aircraft movements at airports, by 7.5 per cent, GreenAir reports.

Impact on Public Health

Residents living close to an airport are negatively impacted by the airline industry due to noise pollution. But aircraft noise goes far beyond simply being a nuisance. Canada's Department of Health raised concerns that noise pollution from the airline industry can lead to a rise in stress levels and a higher incidence of high blood pressure. Health Canada reported that scientists in both Los Angeles and Munich, Germany, found that children living in close proximity to airports experienced a rise in blood pressure, compared to those not exposed to the airline industry. While it may be excessive to claim that aircraft noise causes heart disease, evidence suggests that being exposed to noise pollution over an extended period of time may increase the risk of hypertension.

Security Costs

The high security costs associated with operating airports and ensuring safety on flights impact taxpayers, as these expenses are partially borne by government authorities. The Department of Homeland Security, airports and airlines together spent £26 billion on airport security between Sept. 11, 2001, and the end of 2009, reports "U.S. News and World Report," with an additional £0.6 billion earmarked for new full-body scanning technology and other security measures at major American airports.

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About the Author

Rupert Winston has worked as a freelance writer for over five years and has published both online and in print, including in "The Jewish Tribune," "The National Post" and Transitions Online. Winston has a B.A. degree in English literature, as well as an M.A. in history. He is a professor of history and is preparing to defend his Ph.D. dissertation.

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