Happiness

The Airports Commission has a view on happiness.  It got lost in the immediate analysis of its report. But it is important……because a key justification it gives of  a third runway at Heathrow is that flying abroad on holiday or to visit family and friends makes you happy.

On page 70 of its final report it says: 

Leisure flights have a high social value. Empirical analysis focused on passengers travelling on holiday or to visit friends and family has shown how the access to leisure travel affects mental health and wellbeing. The findings demonstrate these patterns of travel are associated with higher levels of life satisfactions, general and mental health, and happiness.”

The Commission had asked PwC to look at the academic literature on happiness.  They found that it did show that taking a holiday did make people happy.  There second claim – that air travel is associated with a higher level of happiness – was less well-founded because the statistical work that PwC did for the Commission didn’t split up the respondents into those that travelled on holiday by car, train or bus and those that flew.

However, it would be churlish to deny that cheap flights providing holidays in the sun don’t bring happiness to people.  Only last week I was having a snack at a cafe in Canning Town in East London.  When I asked the young waiter if he was going on holiday this year, his eyes lit up as he explained to me that for the first time in the years he and his girlfriend had saved enough money to fly off for a holiday to Portugal. 

The really interesting question is why the Airports Commission is, at least in part, justifying the expansion of Britain’s premier international airport on the grounds of increasing the happiness of a young lad from Canning Town.

Can it be that it found:

The proportion of business trips is falling  

European Aviation Campaigner’s conference

Last weekend’s conference in Munich showed just how vibrant the European movement against airport expansion has become.  On Saturday (22nd June) over 250 campaigners from across Europe packed the sports centre in the small town of Attaching, just outside Munich, sharing ideas and plan Europe-wide campaigns.

Ten years ago this sort of conference would not have taken place.  There was little Europe-wide contact between grassroots campaigners.  

But all that has changed over the past decade.  Campaigners have been in regular contact with each other, building up a European network.

And success has followed.  A third runway has been stopped at Heathrow.  Plans for new airports in Siena and Viterbo in Italy have been abandoned. The residents of Munich voted against a third runway in a referendum last March.  There is huge opposition to the proposed new airport for Nantes in Western France.  Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Berlin to protest against airport expansion.  And, of course, every Monday night for the last 18 months thousands of people have occupied the airport terminal at Frankfurt to protest against the impact of the fourth runway.

People at the conference shared campaigning techniques, including an excellent session on the role of direct action, led by Plane Stupid.

But Saturday’s conference didn’t just hear stories of protest.  There were experts talking about the climate change, noise and air pollution impacts of aviation.  And a powerful talk from Alexander Mahler of the think-tank Green Budget Germany outlining the billions lost to the economy as a result of the tax-free fuel airlines enjoy.

The conference issued a manifesto.  Key demands included an end to night flights and an end to the tax-free fuel aviation enjoys.  These demands will form the basis of Europe-wide campaigns over the coming year.

Campaigners across Europe are forging links live never before.  They are determined to see the aviation industry tamed.