Airlines increasingly worried about polluter stigma as “flygskam” -“flight shame” – movement grows

A Swedish-born anti-flying movement is creating a new vocabulary, from “flygskam” which translates as “flight shame” to “tågskryt,” or “train brag.”  Many Swedes have stopped flying. There are similar movements in some other European countries.  An activist in this movement, Susanna Elfors in Stockholm says membership on her Facebook group Tagsemester, or “Train Holiday,” has reached some 90,000 members – up from around 3,000 around the end of 2017.  She said: “Before, it was rather taboo to discuss train travel due to climate concerns. Now it’s possible to talk about this on a lunch break … and everybody understands.” People who do not fly are no longer seen as so odd. It is not seen as such a peculiar sacrifice. But the “Flygskam” movement is worrying the aviation industry. At the ATA conference in Seoul, the head of IATA said:  Unchallenged, this sentiment will grow and spread.”  That would seriously damage profits. It must be stopped (obviously). The sector wants to get the public to believe it is not a major polluter, and it doing everything possible to emit less carbon. Trouble is, there are no magic fuels on the horizon, and though efficiency gains of 1-2% per year can be made, the sector entirely cancels these out by expansion of 4-5% per year.


IATA has announced CO2 emissions from aviation hit 905 million tonnes in 2018, a 5.2% increase from 2017. link

Airlines scramble to overcome polluter stigma as ‘flight shame’ movement grows


In Lorna Greenwood’s London home, there is a shelf lined with travel guides. But the 32-year-old mother and former government employment lawyer has given up flying.

Greenwood, who grew up enthralled by the possibilities offered by plane travel, is part of a growing group of environmental activists in Northern Europe who are shunning flights as concerns about global climate change increase.  “It’s a tough pill to swallow, but when you look at the issues around climate change, then the sacrifice all of a sudden becomes small,” Greenwood said.

A Swedish-born anti-flying movement is spreading to other European countries, creating a whole new vocabulary, from “flygskam” which translates as “flight shame” to “tågskryt,” or “train brag.”

A number of famous Swedes have stopped flying, including opera singer Malena Ernman, the mother of teenage activist Greta Thunberg who has thrust climate change into the spotlight.

“Flygskam” was a major topic at a three-day airline summit in Seoul this weekend, with global industry leaders launching a counter-offensive.

Unchallenged, this sentiment will grow and spread,” Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told some 150 CEOs.

The industry says it is shrinking its carbon footprint and its sustainability plan is among the most ambitious and globally focused of any industry. “Come on, stop calling us polluters,” de Juniac said at a news conference after detailing the global initiative. [What utter rubbish…. AW comment]

The IATA said the CO2 emission for each CEO’s flight to Seoul was half the amount of a 1990 flight, largely thanks to more fuel-efficient aircraft.


Commercial flying accounts for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions today but without concrete steps, that number will rise as global air travel increases.

The aviation industry has set out a four-pronged plan to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and halve net emissions from 2005 levels by 2050.

But airline leaders acknowledge they have struggled to articulate their plans in a way that resonates with the public. [Could that be because the public is not stupid, and can see that even if flights get 1-2% less carbon intensive per year, that is dwarfed by 4-5% annual growth of the industry?   …. AW comment] 

When CNN anchor Richard Quest asked a room full of aviation executives whether they had used an often available booking option to offset emissions from their own flights to the South Korean capital, only a handful raised their hands.

The industry’s plan rests on a mix of alternative fuel, improved operations such as direct flight paths and new planes or other technology.  [There are not going to be new fuels that do not cause other environmental problems elsewhere, except on a minute scale. New planes are decades away. The industry wants to grow now. The problem is cutting the carbon in the next 5 – 10 years. The industry has no means to do that in any significant way, other than bits of tinkering at the edges. They know that.  … AW comment].

But a widely publicized March study funded by investors managing $13 trillion said airlines were doing too little.

“If we as an industry can provide better, more concrete answers…people will start to feel more comfortable that airlines are serious about this commitment,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in an interview.  [But the airlines are not serious. If they were, they would not keep doing all they can to grow.  …  AW comment]. 


Questions remain over how airlines will slow, steady and finally reduce harmful emissions.

Use of sustainable-fuel would have the single largest impact, reducing emissions from each flight by around 80%, according to the IATA. The problem is that it is in short supply. [Alternative fuels are just pie in the sky. They cannot happen without either competing for land with human food etc, or removing fuels that could be used by other land-based sectors.  AW comment]

“The reality today is there’s just not enough and it’s too expensive,” KLM CEO Pieter Elbers told Reuters. KLM last week announced a deal to develop and buy biofuels from Europe’s first sustainable aviation fuel plant, due to open in 2022.  [Any biofuels produced could be used for road vehicles, which cannot (yet – or ever?) use just electricity.  AW comment] 

Still, the IATA targets 2 percent of total fuel supply from sustainable sources by 2025 and then expects a steady increase.  [Based on what exactly?  Palm oil?  Used cooking oil?  Magic fuels not yet dreamed of? …. AW comment] 

In Europe, eliminating dozens of national airspaces borders could reduce fuel consumption by around 6%, but lobbying for a Single European Sky has been bogged down for years.

Airlines say small steps like single-engine taxiing and the use of lighter materials are cutting around 1-2% of emissions each year.   [Remember, they plan to grow the sector by 4-5% per year, which entirely cancels out the small gains . … AW comment] 


In the absence of a quick and substantial reduction its carbon footprint, the industry has committed to a carbon-offset program.

The global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) allows airlines to purchase pollution credits from environmental projects.

It’s unclear what will count as an “offset” and critics say such schemes hide how much effort is being made by industry and how much is being imported and at what price.

“The risk is that the price airlines are effectively paying for carbon will not be politically acceptable in 5 or 10 years,” a senior aviation executive said, asking not to be named.

European Union Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc told Reuters she favors reviewing available green technology every five years “and then seeing if we can reach even further.”

For now, trains are benefiting from the anti-flight movement, although airline bosses in Seoul said that option barely exists in their busiest new markets such as Indonesia’s archipelago.

In Stockholm, Susanna Elfors says membership on her Facebook group Tagsemester, or “Train Holiday,” has spiked to some 90,000 members from around 3,000 around the end of 2017.

“Before, it was rather taboo” to discuss train travel due to climate concerns, Elfors said. “Now it’s possible to talk about this on a lunch break … and everybody understands.”

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Seoul, Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm and Matthew Green in London; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed and Heekyong Yang in Seoul and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Writing by Tracy Rucinski, Editing by Tim Hepher and Kirsten Donovan



Is Sweden’s ‘flight shame’ movement dampening demand for air travel?

By  Gavin Haines, travel writer – Telegraph Travel News
31 MAY 2019

The chief executive of one of Scandinavia’s largest airlines has blamed the “flight shame” movement for a fall in passenger numbers in Sweden, where concern about climate change has inspired people to give up flying.

Rickard Gustafson, chief executive of SAS, told Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv that he was “convinced” the movement was behind a slump in Swedish air traffic, which reportedly fell by five per cent in the first quarter of 2019.

Passenger numbers rose by 4.4 per cent in Europe during the same period. The airline also blamed the weak Swedish krone.

Spread via social media, the “flygskam” (flight shame) movement has received celebrity endorsement from local stars in Sweden, including the former Olympian biathlete, Björn Ferry, who has pledged to quit flying. He declined a request to be interviewed by Telegraph Travel.

Ferry isn’t the only high-profile Swede refusing to fly. Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist who inspired students around the world to strike over climate change, has also quit air travel.

Thunberg famously took the train (journey time: 32 hours) to attend January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, where she shamed delegates who jetted in on private jets.

Sweden has a curious relationship with air travel. While it appears to be leading a campaign against it, the country’s emissions from aviation are five times higher than the global average, according to a report by Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.

However, there are signs that Swedes are shifting towards more sustainable transport: while the country’s airports report falling passenger numbers, a local railway company, SJ, claims bookings on some routes have increased by as much as 100 per cent.

Sweden’s flight shame movement now appears to be taking off in the UK where a sister campaign, Flight Free UK (, launched in February to encourage Britons to quit flying in 2020.

“The idea is to get 100,000 people to pledge not to fly next year,” said lead campaigner, Anna Hughes, who describes the movement as a “sort of Veganuary for aviation”.

Flight Free UK is also campaigning to make the cost of alternative forms of transport fairer. “At the moment aviation is heavily subsidised – the tax on kerosine is very low – whereas alternative forms of transport are often prohibitively expensive,” she said.

Aviation currently accounts for three per cent of global CO2 emissions, but according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) the industry’s carbon footprint could rise by as much as 700 per cent over the next three decades in a business-as-usual scenario. Ryanair alone is already considered one of Europe’s ten biggest carbon polluters.

“Aviation needs to quickly reduce its emissions,” said Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, which is campaigning for a global tax on kerosine to fund research and development into cleaner alternatives. He added: “We need to fly less for the next 30 years until we get electric or other decarbonised forms of air travel.”

SAS told Telegraph Travel that it will act faster to reduce emissions. “We need to accelerate our work towards more sustainable air travel,” a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Easyjet has claimed that it will be flying electric planes within a decade. The Norwegean government has also set a goal of making all short-haul flights electric by 2040. [That is never going to be a solution, other than for a few small business planes. Large passenger jets, carrying 100 or more passengers, could never be electric.  It is a pipe dream, to try to con the  gullible into allowing aviation growth to continue, with “business as usual”. AW comment]

“In the meantime people can switch holidays with flights to those with trains or closer to home, and take fewer but longer overseas holidays with flights,” suggested Francis.


See earlier:

Swedish flygskam (or flight shame) is spreading across Europe – Finland, Germany … Brits yet to catch on….

Fears about climate change have led many to rethink the way they travel and, in Sweden, there is a new word – flygskam (flying shame) – for the shame associated with flying, knowing the carbon emissions it causes. The subject has come higher up the agenda with the vast protests in Central London by Extinction Rebellion, since Monday 15th April.  And there are protests in many other cities and countries. The Swedes are now travelling a bit less by air, and a bit more by rail. But it’s not just the Swedes racked with guilt about their carbon footprints. The Finnish have invented the word “lentohapea”, the Dutch say “vliegschaamte” and the Germans “flugscham”, all referring to a feeling of shame around flying.  Brits are lagging behind … The Swedish rail company reported 32 million passengers in 2018, a good increase. Many understand that flying has a huge negative climate impact, and there are other words associated with this: “tagskryt” (train bragging) and “smygflyga” (flying in secret). The 16 year old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, started the world wide movement of school strikes, to draw attention to climate change, only travels by train to meetings in other countries.



The concept of “flying shame” is growing in Sweden – shame if you fly too much – due to the CO2 emissions

Many Northern Europeans have “flying shame” because of the climate: they stay on the ground while traveling. Rail travel is becoming increasingly popular. Some people in Sweden are cutting down on flying, and believe the carbon emissions are a matter of shame. The word for it is “flugsham” or “flygskam” and this is becoming a common concept, akin to ‘flying less” in English. A celebrity athlete is well know for only travelling to sporting events if he can get there by train. The Swedes are among the frequent flyers. They fly 7 times more than average global citizens.  While Sweden’s total CO2 emissions have fallen by 24% since 1990, air traffic grew by 61% in that time. A prominent writer in a popular newspaper  denounced the “idiotic lifestyle” of frequent flying as the “most expensive suicide in world history”. Researchers and artists responded: “Flying is no longer an alternative for them”.  People realise that we cannot go on with expanding aviation. A Facebook page on travelling by long-distance rail, rather than flying, had 30,000 followers in a few months. As well as the hashtag #flyingless there is the Swedish counterpart in #jagstannarpåmarken: “I’ll stay on the ground”.