Flight Shame

« Flygskam », a new expression in Swedish, refers to the movement that originated in Sweden last year. It literally translates as ‘flight shame’ and is used to encourage people to shift towards more sustainable transportation options. It’s also given birth to another concept – ‘tagskryt’ or ‘train brag’.

Today, commercial flying accounts for about 2% of global carbon emissions and about 12% of transport emissions, according to the Air Transport Action Group. The aviation sector could more than double by 2050 even if planes achieve to be more sustainable, more fuel-efficient and airlines save additional carbon by optimizing their operations.

Source: Atmosfair

SAS, the Scandinavian Airlines, noticed a decrease in the number of travelers in its 10 airports in the first three months of 2019. According to a recent WWF survey, 23% of Swedes reduced their air travel in 2018 due to climate considerations. More recently UBS questioned 6,000 people from the US and Europe and reported that one in five people had reduced the number of flights taken over the last year because of the impact of climate change. The study notes that the ‘Greta effect’ could change flight habits in wealthier parts of the world and especially in Europe and the US. The report predicts the number of flights in the EU will increase by just 1.5% per year, which is half the rate expected by Airbus, and that growth in US flights would fall from the 2.1% expected to just 1.3%. This change could have a massive impact on aircraft manufacturers, with new engines orders put at risk if conscious travelers modify their habits and opt to travel by train or boat instead.

In answer to the urgency of climate change, countries are in the process of putting in place stricter regulations for the aviation sector.  In 2018 Sweden introduced a tax on airline tickets, 6 EUR per passenger on domestic routes and up to 39 EUR on long journey. In France, there was mention of banning some local air travel, when these journeys could be replaced by trains (max 4 hours by train), and finally a future introduction of an ecotax on French air travel from €1.5 on domestic and intra-European flights to €18 on international business class flights was decided. In Switzerland, the Parliament approved a proposal on the 19th of September, saying that air passengers would pay a tax based on the effect of each flight on the climate (between 30 and 130 CHF). Germany plans to cut taxes for train journeys by almost 2/3rds while increasing the tax paid on flights and establishing a minimum level for airfares. At an EU level, a reform of energy tax is being discussed, including a new energy tax on the aviation sector to meet its climate targets. While the airline sector is part of the emission trading system, it currently still benefits from tax exemptions and other waives to compete with non-EU airlines.

At company level: there are more and more companies trying to mitigate their business journey by plane. In France, between 2012 and 2017, business travel decreased by 30% for domestic flights and by 9 % on all flights. As examples like the Banque de France decided to reduce its carbon footprint and encourage its employees to use trains when the distance of the journey is less than 3.5 hours. Recently, even KLM-Air France announced they will cancel a daily service between Brussels and Amsterdam in order to reduce short-haul flights, encouraging users to switch to train. At Quaero, we have invested in our videoconference system to avoid unnecessary business trips and we actively encourage teams to choose trains rather than air travel. Some companies are deciding to offset the carbon emissions as a result of air-travel, investing in land restoration or reforestation to reduce their net emissions.

However, this no-flight movement doesn’t affect the entire population the same way, especially in emerging markets where the growing middle class is expecting to increase their flight travels. The growth of low-cost airlines means air travel is now more affordable than ever, and until alternative transportation is in place it’s hard to see the trend changing.

While the flight shame movement doesn’t appear everywhere yet, the increasing pressure on talking climate change, show that consumers choices are evolving rapidly, and this can have impact on many industries that are part of the aviation sector.

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