Delta Air Lines just made a chilling admission that'll affect all flyers

Everyone who's desperate to fly regularly again will now be giving pause for thought. Again. It's all about new technology, you understand.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Welcome on board. You're now paying more for the same legroom. How does that feel?

Screenshot by ZDNet

America is now open.

To many vaccinated people from overseas, that is.

So today, we're trying to be positive and consider the desperation for so many to travel in the other direction. Trying.

Covid is still here -- and there and everywhere -- but more people are now prepared to balance the risks with the need to see family members, business associates or merely the back of America for a while.

Then along comes Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian to put a tiny dampener on world enthusiasm.

Speaking to the BBC, Bastian wanted to mention the awkward thing that hangs over us all.

No, not the end of democracy, silly. Climate change. 

Airlines, spectacular in their polluting on our behalf, understand they need to (be seen to) do something about it. Bastian's words on the subject will ring unpleasantly in many ears: "Over time, it's going to cost us all more."

I'm not sure how much it'll cost Bastian, as I imagine he gets a fine first-class seat any time he wants one. It's clear, though, that he believes flying will become more expensive.

Well, someone's got to pay for more efficient planes, carbon neutrality and sustainable aviation fuel. And it isn't just going to be the airlines, is it?

This much was recently made painfully clear by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, as he expressed his uncontrolled enthusiasm for President Biden's original Infrastructure Bill. This happened to include a little credit or two for airlines who help develop sustainable aviation fuel.

In essence, then, some of your taxes may go to creating more climate-friendly technology for airlines while, at the very same time, you'll be paying more for your flights. (And there goes another CFO quietly investing in Zoom.)

You may be entirely in favor of flying less. You may see the wisdom in trying to save (what's left of) the world. You may also be the budgeting type. So you'll idly wonder how much might airfares soar in order to save us all and keep airlines in healthy profits.

The BBC offered up the calculations of Andreas Schafer, professor of energy and transport at University College London. 

Please don't worry. It's not so bad. Just somewhere in the region of a 10-20% rise in airfares.

Somehow, flyers are used to such rises. They know that, especially in America, the choice between airlines is very limited. Four airlines own more than 80% of all American airlines seats. They compete, yes, but often at the margins.

Moreover, with a constant predilection for nickel-and-diming -- curbed somewhat during the pandemic -- flyers often narrow their eyes as they search for tickets, fearing the pain of the words: "Total Cost."

Perhaps airlines won't choose to do the simple thing and insert the climate effect directly into ticket prices. They could, instead, choose to leave it until you've almost completed the booking process and call it a Save The Earth carbon tax. Or, perhaps, the Sustainable Surcharge.

Ultimately, the portents are there, and at least Bastian isn't pretending they're not.

Which will only leave some to wonder how much more of a calculation they'll have to make before deciding to get on a plane.

I can already see tech companies selling fine software to CEOs, software that purports to tell them precisely how much every in-person meeting -- that involves traveling -- is "worth" to their companies.

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