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.  Their 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  

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