Airlines are well known to be significant contributors to global warming but what many people fail to realize is the not insignificant amount of greenhouse gas that's released when an aircraft's door is opened after landing and all the farts escape. BA estimates that the many hundreds, if not thousands, of farts released from a single aircraft can contribute up to 5% of the flight's total pollution.
The government's decision to levy a per-flight pollution tax rather than a per-passenger tax has left airlines free to decide their own methods of passing on the surcharge to their customers.
BA has announced that it plans to introduce farting and non-farting domestic and short-haul flights. Indications are that passengers on farting flights can expect to pay a £15 surcharge. The airline says that separate farting and non-farting long-haul flights would be uneconomical so for those, they intend to introduce a farting class, situated at the rear of the plane. They admit they haven't a clue what to do about first-class passengers on these flights. A spokesman said, "We rip them off enough as it is; to charge them extra for the privilege of farting would be unreasonable."
Engineers are currently developing fart detectors that will eventually be fitted under every seat on non-farting flights. These will consist of a small microphone to detect the rippers and a series of olfactory sensors to detect the type of fart affectionately known as 'silent-but-deadly'.
However these are not expected to be available for at least two years, so in the meantime passengers will be expected to sign no-farting agreements on booking, and on boarding will be offered bungs in the event of an emergency. "We don't want to penalize people for farting inadvertently," a spokesman said, "and for that reason we won't be installing fart detectors in the toilets".
The suggestion of specially trained sniffer dogs has been rejected as impractical since a dog might itself fart and end up chasing its own backside.
Critics have lambasted the scheme. One seasoned flier, a self-confessed prolific farter, said, "It's dead easy to get away with farting on a plane. The engine noise drowns the sound so if you're fairly sure it's not going to smell you can fart to your heart's content. The thing to avoid is sitting there with your nose twitching, trying to determine if it did smell. That's a dead giveaway."
Another regular flier complained of the unfairness of a blanket charge. "It's OK if you fart a lot", he said, "but what if you only fart once during a flight? That's an expensive fart. And what if you don't fart at all? Will they be offering refunds?"
Others believe that being charged £15 might actually encourage people to fart more in order to get their money's worth.
A spokesman for F.A.R.T. (Folks Against Regulatory Tyranny) was scathing about the plans, especially the idea of segregation on long-haul flights. "What about the pilots?" he wanted to know. "Will there be two cockpits, one for farters and one for non-farters? It's bonkers."
Despite the opposition BA is determined to go ahead with its plans, insisting that non-farters should not be unfairly penalized.
At the moment it has no plans to offset the £15 surcharge with frequent farter miles.