Flights may soon be free, says airline chief

Pretty fly: This is the boss of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary. © PA

The boss of the airline company Ryanair has said something very surprising: within five to ten years, flight tickets could cost nothing. Sounds fun, but is free travel really a good idea?

What’s happening

In the 1950s, a flight from London to Edinburgh cost a week’s wages. In the 1990s, the same ticket was ‘cheap as a pair of jeans’. In ten years, says Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, it could be free. It sounds impossible, but his plan is for airports to subsidise the flights as more passengers travel.

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This is a radical idea. Air travel has already changed the world once: in the nineteenth century, it took three months for the poet John Keats to travel from England to Rome. Now the same journey would take him three hours by plane.

For this reason it became much easier for people to see the world when commercial air travel took off after the second world war. In the 1990s cheap companies like Ryanair arrived, and they made the experience affordable for almost everyone. The number of air travellers skyrocketed. Tourist destinations became even more popular.

O’Leary’s plan is not a promise, as there are lots of complications ahead. But if he can pull it off, offering free flights to millions of people would be sure to change the world again.

Some say…

What a great idea! Thanks to the internet, we know about the whole world. How amazing would it be to see it all with our own eyes? Every country would get an economic boost, and tourists would be spread more evenly across destinations. Best of all, it would give equal travel opportunities to everyone —no matter who they are.

Others think…

Not so fast. Free flights would cause planes to be full all the time, and airports would be chaotic. The number of flights would balloon, causing damage to the environment. People would always be abroad rather than at home with their families. And the magic of travel – the thrill of discovery, the fun of taking a break from life – would be gone.

You Decide

  1. Would the world be a better place with free flights for everyone?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have a six-week summer holiday and all flights are free. Draw a map showing where you would go.

Some People Say...

“The journey is more important than the destination.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

CEO
A chief executive officer is the person in charge of a company.
Subsidise
To pay money towards the cost of something.
Radical
Extreme.
John Keats
An English poet who died in 1821.
Commercial
On sale to ordinary people.
Skyrocketed
Increased by a large amount.
Economic
Related to money or finance. In this case, more tourists spending money in a place will help the local people.
Environment
Plane journeys emit lots of greenhouse gases, which add to global warming.

Subjects

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