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Oh Good. Flight Shaming Is A Thing Now

Oh Good. Flight Shaming Is A Thing Now
Jeff Edwards

The Scandinavian concept of “flygskam” or flight shaming is catching on across the globe, but for many of those passengers concerned about the environmental impact of air travel, there are sometimes very few viable alternatives. The airline industry isn’t taking any chances, however, and are unveiling new ways to make their customers feel better about flying.

Until recently, the idea of being embarrassed about frequent air travel has been a uniquely Scandinavian notion, but the idea that flying might not be the most environmentally responsible of activities is gaining traction outside of the European countries where the term “flygskam” (flight shame) was coined to give voice to the shame of traveling by air. For most air travelers, however, heading to the airport is far from an extravagant ordeal and is often an economic necessity. Nonetheless, airlines are determined not to allow the industry to get tagged with the reputation for being environmentally irresponsible.

News images of thousands of private planes crowded on the tarmac at the most recent climate change-themed economic summit in Davos, Switzerland provided some unfortunate optics. Although the aviation-related excesses of a few thousand billionaires and world leaders enraged environmental experts, those of us who tend to share a ride with a few hundred of our closest friends have so far been in the clear, but that is beginning to change.

In Sweden, flygskam is slowly becoming more than just a social faux pas. Lawmakers have even introduced a hefty carbon tax on air travel with the intention of lessening the environmental impact of rampant air travel. “The objective of the tax is to minimize the carbon footprint of flights following a sharp increase in air travel,” Climate Minister spokesperson Isabella Lovin wrote in a statement unveiling the flygskam-inspired tax on flights.

As more and more passengers begin to reassess the environmental toll of frequent air travel, the airline industry is taking action to keep public opinion around the globe from resembling the shift in public perception (and regulatory actions) on display in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. “Unchallenged, this sentiment will grow and spread,” International Air Travel Association (IATA) Director Alexandre de Juniac announced at the group’s annual general meeting in comments reported by the Chicago Tribune.

United Airlines, the second largest carrier on the planet, is doing its level best to get ahead of the issue. On June 5th, in celebration of World Environment Day, United Airlines operated a first-of-its-kind “Flight for the Planet.” The environmentally friendly journey from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) highlighted a number of the airline’s sustainability initiatives, including the use of aviation-grade biofuel, producing near zero cabin waste and taking advantage of already established and popular carbon offset programs.

“The historic Flight for the Planet showcases United’s philosophy of working together to find new and innovative ways to lead us into a more sustainable future,” United Airlines President Scott Kirby said in a statement touting the experimental flight. “As an airline, we see our environment from a unique perspective every day and we know we must do our part to protect our planet and our skies.”


[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

View Comments (19)


  1. alangore


    June 25, 2019 at 11:23 am

    In medieval times, wealthy people who sinned could buy plenary indulgences from the Church to equalize their status with the representatives of the Almighty and be declared absolved.

    Today these are called carbon offsets.

  2. Flight44

    June 25, 2019 at 11:54 am

    The fact is, many people fly because the price of a ticket is artificially low. There are many subsidies that support air travel, all sorts of taxpayer money spent on airports, tax breaks for companies to build aircraft and components in certain jurisdictions, and much more. Take all that away, and let the price of a ticket naturally increase. You’ll have many fewer seats in the air.

  3. glob99

    June 25, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    Well I don’t see any decrease in Scandinavians fleeing the harsh winter to warm climes. :)

    Why focus so much on air transport that is only 2% of the CO2 emissions?

  4. Freebird

    June 26, 2019 at 5:59 am

    Part of the reason of my upcoming move to Asia is to curtail my carbon emissions as I have to be there several times a year.

  5. peterk814

    June 26, 2019 at 6:48 am

    When have the swedes ever contributed anything useful? They can shame who they want, their opinion is of little value.

  6. KRSW

    June 26, 2019 at 7:21 am

    @alangore’s got it right. Environmentalism has become a new religion.

    Do any digging in some of the popular environmental movements (banning plastic straws, recycling, carbon offsets) and you’ll find that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps people had good intent, but it ends up being a cash grab.

    It’s certainly a good idea to pollute less, generate less waste, etc., BUT human activity vs. nature’s is pretty small. One whale’s bowel movement in the ocean, a volcano erupting, or a forest fire caused by lightning all put out massive “pollutants” compared to any of us peons.

  7. Tino

    June 26, 2019 at 7:35 am

    My vegan friends know at this point how effective their meat shaming is on me. Want to take the train from NYC to the UK? Be my guest.

  8. Dublin_rfk

    June 26, 2019 at 9:15 am

    OMG! My new word of the day ”flygskam” ! And like deplorable I will wear it proudly! The day that I can walk / ride a bicycle/ take a train to London, Tokyo, Honolulu, or Bandaranaike Seri Begawan I will until them. Fly baby fly!

  9. Dublin_rfk

    June 26, 2019 at 9:19 am

    F spell check. Bandar Seri Begawan!

  10. Jackie_414

    June 26, 2019 at 10:16 am

    ” . . . including the use of aviation-grade biofuel, producing near zero cabin waste . . .”

    Pure BS. As an aerospace engineer and combustion specialist, I can tell you that this is an outright lie, to say nothing about the spelling error. All combustion fuels, including biofuels, are organic compounds with carbon skeletons. The cleanest fuels are those that result in two combustion products, water and CO2. ALL organic fuels produce CO2 upon combustion, including biofuels. Please stop writing this drivel BS on your website.

  11. Frizzy

    June 26, 2019 at 10:25 am

    That photo is so lame. Who uses those old fashioned suitcases today ;–)

  12. Raul_R

    June 26, 2019 at 11:09 am

    I do not see there any reason to worry about.
    he Scandinavian concept of “flygskam” or flight shaming is just another stupid idea from that area.

    I am proud that can fly in First class and in Business class (by taking on the plane place of 4-20 people if they should fly in economy) and if Sweden will make some special tax for such travelling, I will just try to avoid routing via Sweden.

    Their main source of such a problem is demand that everybody should be “equal”.
    Of course they are free think whatever they want. But same am I. :)

    Will try to fly even more!
    With 0 “flygskam”.-

  13. BC Shelby

    June 26, 2019 at 11:33 am

    @Tino Well, there is a ship that does regular Transatlantic crossings, the Queen Mary II (and they even have single traveller cabins now so you don’t have to find a companion or pay a single supplement charge).

    Preferable to being crammed into, and trying to sleep in a steerage class seat then arriving early in the morning all bleary eyed, achy, as well as irritable and having to wander about like a sleep deprived zombie most of the day before you can finally check in to your hotel room and flop in the bed.

    Oh and BTW Scandinavian rail systems are extending lines service to make it easier to get to the continent by train.

  14. Morgacj2004

    June 26, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    Another brilliant idea (not) by the Scandanavians.

  15. Snuggs

    June 27, 2019 at 12:16 am

    “Environmental Experts” Sounds like conflicting terms

    “Norwegian Airlines” The people who added thousands to the sky?

    Scandinavians… Didn’t they once respond to a terror act by stating “This can’t happen to us, we are the good guys”?

    And finally, do we all recall the reason the “Nobel Prize” was established?

  16. dliesse

    June 28, 2019 at 10:28 am

    The plane’s going to fly whether I’m on it or not, so I’m not going to feel guilty about flying somewhere.

    The alternative to flying is to stay home, which isn’t going to happen in this world. Yes, the Queen Mary sails between New York and Southampton — 6 days each way, using up one’s entire vacation just for the travel. And that does nothing for getting to the rest of the world.

  17. Gizzabreak

    June 29, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    With today’s ‘instant news’ and the perceived (and factual) ‘evils’ of commercial flight, it’s very easy to gain kudos for revolutionary ideas to clean up the upper atmosphere. In this case a cartel of countries (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden), trading as Scandanavia, seek to shame those who travel by air. Perhaps their rightiousness could reasonably be neutralised via consideration of their fertility rates, i.e. the number of new little feet they inflict on the planet to make increasing demands on the planet’s fragility in ALL areas. In the case of these countries, every one has a fertility rate above the OECD average. It is difficult to underpin a moral argument with hypocrisy.

  18. mhrb

    July 13, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    And not a moment too soon. So many self-important, self-entitled rich people in the comments.

  19. sydunipete

    August 16, 2019 at 6:16 am

    I spend a fair bit of time in Sweden. At my last flight out of Stockholm Arlanda there was a sole protester holding up a flygskam cardboard sign. He cut a very lonely figure amongst all the taxies, buses and cars dropping off departing passengers.

    As for the new tax I have a choice of where I live and fly. The Swedish government might like to speak with the CEO of Gillette. Get woke – go broke.

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