What is Flight Shame? People need to fly less, period

What is Flight Shame?
Credit: Agi Simoes


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Are you one of the growing number of people in the world who has become ashamed of flying? ‘Flygskam’, or flight shame, became a buzz word in Sweden earlier this year referring to the guilt passengers feel over the environmental effects of flying, contributing to a trend that saw more and more Swedes opting to travel by train to ease their conscience – you can read the full report in the Mail Online here.

Elsewhere in Europe, some airlines have been jumping on the PR bandwagon to try to prove their environmental credentials and head off government regulations – from Thomas Cook Airlines, which has tweaked their inflight videos to have a more sustainable bent, to KLM, which is reportedly advising its passengers to seek alternatives to flying and take the train instead of taking short haul flights – read the full article here.

But are we really easing up on flying? It’s true that once upon a time business and pleasure travellers alike might have been proud to boast how many air miles they had accrued. Whereas now the talk is increasingly of travelling smart, flying less, and working out how to get somewhere as sustainable as possible – at least for a growing number of us. But posturing by individuals and airlines is one thing – actively reducing the amount of carbon that airplanes emit in line with the Paris Agreement and providing true, accountable and transparent information to the public is another, and we still have a long way to go.


NOW believes that we all need to choose alternative modes of travel over planes for short distances – and to demand lower pricing and better scheduling from train companies to make this a more feasible option. It isn’t always practical and cost-effective to shun air travel, especially for families with limited holiday time – as the Guardian explores in an enlightening article here. But we will all need to rethink how we travel, where we travel, and for how long we travel, as our climate emergency rages on.

To encourage conscious travel, NOW recently launched the NOW Offset Carbon tool powered by South Pole based in Zurich. NOW believes that if we have to fly (or emit carbon for any other activity) it is better to offset than not to offset, and to choose a provider that has integrity. As Director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism Dr Susanne Becken says, “Carbon offsetting is not the solution, it is only a band-aid that gains us time.”

This is because when some people buy carbon offsets, they think that their emissions don’t then ‘matter’ – but the plane has still taken off, and added carbon to the atmosphere. What the offset does is help someone else reduce their emissions – a practice which is better than nothing, but that will not get help the planet get to zero emissions. To do that, people need to fly less – period.

Australia School Strike for Climate

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg has not flown since 2015, and like her peers continues to urge others to turn their backs on air travel for good. As consumer consciousness, concern and fear about the climate emergency and its effects increases, so will support for real action such as giving up flying and joining campaign groups such as Strike 4Climate and Extinction Rebellion – amongst people with a conscience. But for people or companies without a conscience, who simply do not care about their carbon footprint, then flight shame will not affect them. To get them to take responsibility and reduce their carbon, governments need to ensure other alternative and affordable solutions are in place and instate a serious carbon tax or other penalties. And down on the ground, things will get more personal. After flight shame, will come the more aggressive act of ‘calling out’. The influence and power of the consumer with the wallet and the mobile device will drive the change.

Australia School Strike for Climate2

Note: Offset your air travel carbon footprint with the NOW OFFSET CARBON tool (and feel good).

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