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To Fly or Not to Fly: The Other Cost of Flight Shaming

To Fly or Not to Fly: The Other Cost of Flight Shaming
Jeff Edwards

The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the world’s biggest airline industry trade organization, warned members this week that growing movements to shame passengers for air travel on the basis of environmental concerns represent a threat to profitability, not just from the risk of passengers choosing not to fly but also from the growing likelihood of increased taxes and regulations.

The idea of being embarrassed by the environmental impact of travel by air has become so prevalent in Scandinavia that some languages have coined a specific term for the phenomenon. In Sweden, the word “flygskam” is readily understood to express regret over the damage done by flying. The movement has become so prolific that the CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) addressed the growing campaign in remarks at the Wings of Change Americas industry conference in Chicago this week.

Not surprisingly, Alexandre de Juniac is not a fan of the development. The former Air France-KLM CEO says that so-called flight shaming represents a dual-threat to airlines.

“Through campaigns like flight shaming, which started in Sweden, people are being presented with a false choice: to fly or not to fly,” de Juniac told attendees. “Simultaneously, governments are piling on with so-called environmental taxes that penalize airlines and air travelers but do little to support industry efforts to become greener. Raising airline costs reduces the industry’s ability to invest in more efficient aircraft and ground equipment. And I have yet to see any aviation environmental tax actually being used to help reduce aviation’s environmental impacts.”

De Juniac said the irony of airlines being singled out over environmental concerns is that the industry is among the most progressive and transparent when it comes to sustainability issues. He says, however, that public backlash, targeted taxes and increased regulations remain a real concern.

“The fact is that we are already helping people to fly sustainably,” de Juniac argued. “The environmental impact of an individual traveler has been cut in half compared to 1990, and we have decoupled emissions growth from underlying traffic growth.”

It is no coincidence that airlines have been increasingly touting their environmental good deeds and competing to out-“green” competing carriers. In the airline industry, at least, being environmentally friendly is good business and lately, airlines aren’t being shy about publicizing their accomplishments in this area. This is very much a trend de Juniac would like to see continue.

“We require governments to support these efforts, not make them more difficult,” de Juniac urged. “And as an industry, we need to do a better job of informing the public of the ways in which we are living up to our environmental commitments.”


[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

View Comments (4)


  1. jrpallante

    September 11, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    Sweden does not welcome visitors and their money. Message received.

  2. adventures_await

    September 13, 2019 at 9:31 am

    I wonder if anyone has done a pollution comparison between an 8 hour flight for one person and an approximate 17 day cruise from England and New York. Planes burn relatively clean jet kerosene, cruise ships burn dirty bunker fuel.
    If you divided the average plane weight for 8 hour flight per passenger against the average ship weight for 17 days per passenger and multiplied that by the fuel used per passenger my bet is that you will find that jet travel is better for the environment than sailing.

  3. aristotled


    September 14, 2019 at 10:43 am

    just read dr alston chase’s in a dark wood, it should be required reading for all elementary students on the planet. the esteemed professor debunks the whole bs… I agree with jrpallante ^

  4. Snuggs

    September 18, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Oh no, a bunch of folks who can’t afford to fly start just one more politic initiative? Who would have seen that coming?

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