The future of cheap flights is in doubt after almost 200 countries agreed to curb carbon emissions from air travel after 20 years of squabbling about the move.
The agreement puts a brake on a golden age of air travel and puts the future of some aviation companies in doubt.
To see how the advent of inexpensive air travel has boosted travel and tourism, consider that just after the Second World War, an average worker would have to save for 130 weeks to earn enough to fly from Sydney to London in the cheapest seat.
Now, the cost of the same flight takes the same worker about two weeks to earn.
Many view the agreement brokered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a United Nations agency, as a game changer for air travel.
Besides introducing engineering and operational measures to reduce carbon emissions, airlines will have to pay billions every year towards carbon offsets of emissions from aircraft engines.
The offsets agreed by the will pay for tree planting, environmental measures and technical research to keep reducing emissions.
However, many airlines are already reeling from falling profits despite a drop in fuel prices.
Terrorism in North Africa and the Middle East has seen a drop in the numbers of passengers taking flights to popular tourist destinations, such as Tunisia, parts of Egypt and Turkey.
Europe’s most profitable airlines, EasyJet and Air Berlin, have issued profit warnings. The German carrier is slashing hundreds of jobs and cutting at least half from a fleet of 144 airliners after posting losses for eight consecutive years.
Deal costs billions
The new deal offset deal is expected to cost airlines $24 billion by 2035 – equivalent to almost 2% of projected revenue.
Aircraft emissions were not included in the recent historic Paris CAP 20 environmental deal, which is why the UN has brokered separate negotiations.
“It has taken a great deal of effort and understanding to reach this stage, and I want to applaud the spirit of consensus and compromise demonstrated by our member states, industry and civil society,” said ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.
“We now have practical agreement and consensus on this issue backed by a large number of states who will voluntarily participate in the agreement from its outset.”