- Rishi Sunak’s Frequent Use of RAF Flights Under Scrutiny
- Accusations of Hypocrisy Amid Climate Emission Reduction Commitment
- Flight Data Reveals Domestic Flights and Private Aircraft Usage
Rishi Sunak has used RAF jets and helicopters for domestic flights more frequently than the previous three British prime ministers.
According to data from the Ministry of Defence, he took nearly one such voyage per week during his first seven months in office.
Given his commitments to reduce climate-warming carbon emissions, the prime minister has been accused of hypocrisy for flying on short domestic flights.
However, Mr. Sunak stated that air travel was the “most efficient use of my time.”
32 Squadron of the Royal Air Force employs two Dassault Falcon 900LX jets and a helicopter to transport the Prime Minister and other ministers within the country.
In a total of 187 days, Mr. Sunak boarded 23 domestic flights on these aircraft, an average of one every eight days.
The brevity of Ms. Truss’s tenure in Downing Street and Mr. Johnson’s travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic are two considerations.
However, the Ministry of Defence denied the request on cost grounds and suggested requesting information on these flights since Mrs. May took office.
For international travel, the prime minister has access to an RAF Voyager, and the government also charters private flights on Titan Airways aircraft.
Mr. Sunak has accepted more than £70,000 in private aircraft and helicopter travel to Conservative Party events this year from political donors.
Mr. Sunak’s use of flights for engagements in the United Kingdom has come under intense scrutiny, with critics wondering why he did not take the train instead of RAF aircraft for relatively short journeys to Newquay, Dover, and Leeds this year.
Mr. Sunak stated last month that those who advocate “no one should fly” as a response to climate change are “completely and utterly wrong.”
Labour stated that the Prime Minister was “developing an expensive habit of swanning around on taxpayer-funded private jets.”
Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, suggested that Mr. Sunak had violated the ministerial code, which stipulates that he must use scheduled flights unless “it is essential to travel by air.”
After committing to reduce carbon emissions, the SNP stated that Mr. Sunak was “completely out of touch” and “grossly hypocritical” based on the flight data.
In his address at the COP27 climate summit one year ago, Mr. Sunak stated that it was “morally right” for the United Kingdom to honor its commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
As part of the global endeavor to avert the worst impacts of climate change, the United Kingdom has set a legally binding goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
By consuming fuel, flights produce greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), which contribute to global warming.
Domestic flights have the worst emissions per kilometer of any mode of transportation, and private aircraft typically produce more CO2 than commercial flights.
However, carbon emissions differ significantly depending on the size of the aircraft, the efficiency of its engines, and the number of passengers carried.
International and domestic UK aviation accounted for 8% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, before the pandemic.
The prime minister’s priorities
Anna Hughes, whose Flight Free UK campaign urges individuals to fly less for the sake of the environment, described Mr Sunak’s transport options as “frustrating.”
She stated that if leaders exhibited “the kind of behavior that we all need to adopt to avert the climate crisis”, it would convey that the issue is serious and imminent.
“You can’t just say I’m the prime minister, I’m too busy and important,” she added.
One former official with knowledge of ministerial travel before Mr. Sunak’s premiership stated that transportation decisions “were based on the time” and that the train was utilized “nine times out of ten.”
The former official, who wished to remain anonymous, stated, “We had access to the Prime Minister’s schedule, and every single minute of every single day is accounted for.”
“The only way to accomplish a lengthy visit was by airplane,” they said.
A spokesperson for Downing Street stated that ministers “occasionally require the use of non-commercial air travel.”
“This is a standard practice for governments around the world, and this has been the case under successive administrations of all political stripes in the United Kingdom,” the spokesperson explained.
All travel decisions consider value for money, security, and time efficiency, and all flights are carbon neutral.