Washngton (July 28, 2023) — Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the Assessing International Requirements to Fuel Aviation’s Impact Reduction (AIR FAIR) Act, legislation that would apply a system of surcharges on luxury aviation, including private jets and first and business class tickets, to curb wasteful greenhouse gas emissions. 

“The wealthiest Americans cannot continue to get away with paying mere pennies in travel taxes, while the rest of us pay the cost of the climate crisis,”said Senator Markey.  “This is not only an economic injustice but also an environmental injustice. As the ultra-wealthy exploit tax loopholes to get a discount, they pollute our planet and the air we breathe. The AIR FAIR Act will ground fat cats who want to free-ride on our climate and infrastructure. I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation to protect the health of our planet and our communities from dirty luxury travel.”

“Luxury air travel generates a disproportionate share of aviation-related carbon emissions,” said Senator Whitehouse. “By applying a reasonable surcharge on excess emissions and reinvesting the revenue, we can ensure that globetrotting ultra-rich polluters contribute their fair share towards climate solutions.”

“To address the climate crisis, we need to slash emissions in every part of our economy, even hard to decarbonize sectors like aviation,” said Senator Welch. “This bill will generate billions in revenue to support research into low-carbon aviation. And it does it all without hurting the average American’s ability to fly. I’m proud to join Sen. Whitehouse to take this step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get green aviation off the ground.”

Aviation accounts for three percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions of the United States and is set to triple by 2050. Half of all aviation emissions are generated by one percent of the population. Flying first class has been estimated to have up to seven times the carbon footprint of flying in economy, and flying private is ten times as carbon intensive as flying commercial.

Private jet users also do not pay their fair share for aviation infrastructure. Private jets make up a sixth of the flights handled by the FAA, but contribute only two percent of the taxes that fund the agency. 

The AIR FAIR Act’s pollution surcharges will level the playing field for low-carbon aviation fuels and raise an estimated $19 billion annually. The bill would reinvest revenues into aviation decarbonization, air pollution control, and transportation infrastructure.

The legislation would require private jet operators arriving in or departing from any United States airport to report flight path, flight duration, and fuels used to EPA within one week of a flight. The EPA would levy a $190/ton carbon dioxide emission surcharge on all domestic private flights and equivalent surcharges based on flight duration for international flights.

The bill would also apply a surcharge on first and business class tickets. Operators would impose equivalent surcharges on first and business class tickets sold for flights arriving in or departing from a United States airport based on flight duration.

To incentivize emissions reductions, flight operators would be allowed to credit emissions reductions from use of next-generation sustainable aviation fuels against the surcharges and commercial operators would be allowed to credit compliant direct air capture against first and business class surcharges.