The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that air taxes will be switched from individual passengers to airline flights.

Announcing his pre-Budget report, Alistair Darling said the new system, which will come into effect in November 2009, will encourage more efficient use of planes and help combat climate change.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said that a tax that penalises airlines for operating half-empty planes "makes a lot of sense", but added that the government's support for airport expansion "seriously undermines" its credibility on environmental issues.

Airline easyJet welcomed the announcement, saying that a system that charges passengers equally, regardless of the distance they are flying, is "just plain wrong".

Andy Harrison, chief executive of the airline, added: "A structure that taxes a passenger in the newest, cleanest aircraft the same as someone in an old gas-guzzler cannot be allowed to continue.

"It is right to tax emissions, not passengers. That means reflecting a combination of aircraft type and distance flown."

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