He’s a millionaire with a private jet. But now he’s selling it for the sake of the environment
The global private jet market has more than doubled over the past two decades and is on fire, setting new industry records in 2021 and 2022 in terms of transaction volume and dollar volume, according to a recent report by the U.S. Institute for Policy Studies (USIPS).The report found that private jets emit at least ten times more pollutants per passenger than commercial planes, exacerbating the aviation industry’s disproportionate contribution to climate change. The report was released in May 2023.Despite the fact that roughly one in every six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flights are private, the industry accounts for less than 2% of federal aviation taxes, according to the report.One private jet owner, Stephen Prince, who co-authored the report with Stephen Prince, Vice-Chair of the “Patriots Millionaires,” a group of high-income Americans advocating for higher taxes, has decided to give up his private jet.
He decided to get rid of the plane – a medium-size, long-range corporate jet with space for up to nine people – after learning that private air travel is significantly more carbon-intensive than commercial air travel.”I was astounded that I had been so consumed with my love of private air travel that I had been able to ignore what a terrible injustice I was doing to the environment and future generations,” he says in a CNN interview. “I needed to make a change, and I just can’t keep doing this. The Citation III is the biggest and most expensive of Prince’s private jets, costing him between $275,000 and $300,000 a year to operate. Prince says flying private is “the best way to travel,” but he’s ready to give it up and return to commercial flights. “I’ve been flying private for the past six or seven years and I hate the process, TSA, the long lines, the canceled flights, the lost luggage – I hate it all, and when you’re flying first class it’s even more expensive,” he said. “But I made a decision back in March of this year, and I am sticking with it, selling it, and getting rid of it aggressively.”The Cessna is currently worth about $1 million and in the current market it should find a buyer pretty quickly.
There’s only one hitch. Prince, a gift card and payments entrepreneur, may be getting rid of his jet, but he’s not giving up private air travel altogether.”I’ve got a friend who will let me lease his twin turbo, which uses about a quarter of the fuel as the Cessna, and I’ll only use it twice or three times per year to go to the northwest corner Nebraska pheasant preserve,” Prince says.
He says he’s not trying to convince other millionaires to get rid of their jets. “I don’t want to make this sound like a publicity stunt,” he adds, “but when I talk to my conservative, rich friends, I’m sure they’ll say the same thing. It’s not my mission.”However, Prince believes that wealthy individuals in the United States should pay more tax. “I believe that we as a society are not paying enough taxes,” he said. “No one wants to pay taxes, and they try to justify it by saying they are greedy, but the truth is, we all are. We all need to become part of the ‘us’ society, and not the ‘us.’ If we are not concerned with the greater good of humanity, then we are living with a false set of values.”
Prince isn’t alone. The Institute for Policy Studies recently released a report that shares Prince’s concerns about higher taxes on both the sale and fuel of private jets. The authors suggest a 10% tax on pre-owned jets and 5% for new ones. The federal jet fuel tax should be doubled (from $0.219/gallon to $0.4/gallon) for the most frequent users.
For example, the report states that Elon Musk, one of the most prominent private jet owners in the US, would pay $3.94/gallon more in taxes under the proposed conditions. The authors calculate that Musk bought a new jet, flew 171 times (roughly every other day), burned 220,000 gallons (about the same amount of jet fuel) and produced 2,100 tons (roughly the same amount of carbon emissions as the average American) in 2022.”Private jets are a symptom of growing inequality and concentrated wealth and power in a small number of hands,” Chuck Collins, author of the report, told CNN. “From an environmental point of view, decarbonizing the aviation sector seems like a great way to start. It’s one of the biggest emitters of carbon, but it’s a very small group of people. We need to have very high taxes on private jet owners, including usage taxes and fuel taxes. We also need to phase out private aviation infrastructure. In my community outside of Boston, there’s a private airport called Hanscom Field and there’s a lot of pressure to expand it because it’s a suburban private jetport.”
While it may be difficult to ban private air travel outright, “I think it’s a good idea to make it pay for its environmental and social costs,” Collins says. “Just as we should not build new fossil fuel infrastructure to meet the demands of the private jet class,” he adds, “we shouldn’t build new infrastructure to serve a private jet class that has grown by 133% over the past two decades.”The global private jet fleet grew from 995 aircraft in 2000, to 23,133 aircraft by mid-2022.In Europe, a number of countries, including France and Ireland, have called on European politicians to tighten regulations around private jets to reduce their use.In April, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport announced it.