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Down with pointless business travel

June 3, 2008

The activist organisation Plane Stupid is campaigning against pointless business flights. Good for them: flying is really stressful and unpleasant, and it contributes massively to climate change. Cutting out unnecessary business travel would make a huge difference.

I had a pointless business trip yesterday: down to the House of Commons for a DVD launch. I left at 8 in the morning and got back at 10:30 at night – all to hear a politician speak for ten minutes, and watch a 20 minute DVD in some back room at the House of Commons.

I went through intrusive security three times – at Glasgow airport, the House of Commons and Heathrow Terminal 5 (T5), where I was subjected to a retinal scan. That’s too many times in one day to deal with paranoia and be treated like a terror suspect.

We had to endure the dreaded T5, which is an absolute nightmare: biggest building in Britain, it’s a massive hangar of a shopping mall with a captive audience. Nothing works properly: we travelled with a disabled passenger, and were trapped between arrivals and baggage reclaim for an hour because none of the lifts were working. We called BAA who contacted Itchy and Scratchy the lift engineers. They had their manuals and screwdrivers out, but couldn’t solve the problem: stuck.

Having a million other things to do, I spent the day surreptitiously checking my BlackBerry and making calls – better things to do than traipse around BoJoVille.

If I’d wanted to hear a politician speak I could have logged on to Parliament TV.

Next time, just post me a copy of the DVD. Save yourselves several thousand pounds and spend it on something useful.

I think that Plane Stupid overstate the relative importance of flying to climate change: I think we need to focus on a much wider package of changes to our society. But seriously, it’s time to stop making pointless flights. Sometimes business travel is necessary, but we need to stop the hidden subsidies of aviation and make train travel affordable and viable – on a recent trip I made, I was faced with the choice between an 11 and a half hour train journey, with three changes, for £178, or a 45 minute flight for £2.48. Guess which one I chose?

Time to nationalise the railways and invest heavily in making train journeys the first choice for journeys between cities.

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