German domestic air travel slump points to increase in “flight shame” and carbon awareness
Mounting concern about carbon emissions may be altering travel habits in Germany, as figures from German airports show a steady decline in passengers taking domestic flights. The number was down 12% in November from a year earlier, according to the ADV industry group. That was a fourth straight monthly drop and mirroring a pattern emerging in Sweden, where teenage activist Greta Thunberg has spearheaded a campaign against air transport. Rail firm Deutsche Bahn AG has meanwhile reported record passenger numbers. More people are aware of the carbon impact of their flying behaviour, and have a sense of so-called flying shame — flygskam in Swedish. This may have increased this year in Germany, as they experienced very unusually extreme weather with thunderstorms and the River Rhine almost running dry. The figures come as Germany’s parliament votes on a climate package including a tax cut aimed at reducing train ticket prices by around 10%, Unfortunately there has not yet been a fall in the number of inter-continental air journeys. IATA is concerned that “anti-flying sentiment” will “grow and spread.”
German Air Travel Slump Points to Spread of Flight Shame
By William Wilkes and Richard Weiss (Bloomberg)
19 December 2019,
– Passenger numbers are steadily dropping on domestic routes
– Slide mirrors Swedish trend as rail operators reap surge
Mounting concern about carbon emissions may be altering travel habits in Europe’s largest economy as figures from German airports show a steady decline in passengers taking domestic flights.
The number of people flying between German cities fell 12% in November from a year earlier, according to the ADV industry group, marking a fourth straight monthly drop and mirroring a pattern emerging in Sweden, where teenage activist Greta Thunberg has spearheaded a campaign against air transport. Rail firm Deutsche Bahn AG has meanwhile reported record passenger numbers.
Short-haul flying in Germany has decoupled from longer trips (See graphic)
Source: ADV airports association, Fraport AG
The data adds to signs that climate change is fostering a sense of so-called flying shame — flygskam in Swedish — that’s causing some people to avoid one of the most polluting forms of travel. The phenomenon may be more advanced in Germany after the country suffered a series of extreme weather events that saw it buffeted by thunderstorms and the River Rhine running dry.
“To me, this is evidence of heightened awareness of climate change turning to consumer action,” said Stefan Goessling, professor of transport economics at Linnaeus University business school, Sweden, who analyzed the data and found a slowing economy, strikes and airline failures didn’t fully explain the slump.
The figures come as Germany’s parliament votes on a climate package including a tax cut aimed at reducing train ticket prices by around 10%, while Deutsche Bahn is targeting 100% renewable electricity to power trains on inter-city routes. UBS last month said Europe may be set for a “high-speed rail renaissance” as deregulation aids better services and cheaper fares.
Not Exactly the Orient Express, But Europe’s Sleepers Are Back
The ADV numbers show that flights from Germany to other European countries have also declined to a lesser degree, something that might be accounted for by the relative uncompetitiveness of rail on trips much beyond four hours.
The tally for inter-continental journeys, where surface transport isn’t practical and which are often less discretionary than shorter ones, involving family visits and key business events, is still increasing.
The German trends replicate those seen in Sweden, where airport operator Swedavia AB reported in April that passenger numbers had dropped for seven consecutive months, just as state rail operator SJ posted record figures.
In Germany, which has suffered record-breaking heatwaves and a drop in Rhine water levels that halted barge shipments, caused fuel shortages and disrupted power production, the environment has become the most pressing issue among voters, according to pollster Matthias Jung. Support for the country’s Greens is above 20%, trailing only Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
ADV has suggested other issues may be at play in the slump, including strikes at Deutsche Lufthansa AG and the cancellation of routes between Berlin and three other cities. Goessling said that explanation doesn’t stack up given that air-passenger numbers have declined across the country.
Neither is the economy likely to have been a major factor, with household spending up 1.8% in the third quarter and consumer confidence rated “exceptionally high.”
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Ruxandra Haradau-Doeser said it’s too early to be sure what’s prompting the slide in domestic flying, though tax regimes aimed at cutting train fares will inevitably weigh on airline volumes and put carriers spanning Lufthansa to discount specialist EasyJet Plc under extra pressure.
Deutsche Bahn reckons annual passenger numbers on long-distance trains will reach 260 million by 2040, almost double the 2015 total, while Austrian’s state railway operator is adding night-train capacity in expectation of rising demand.
Guilt About That Flight to Mallorca Is a Problem for Airlines
The European Union plans to impose a jet-fuel levy as part of its new Green Deal. Carriers including Ryanair Holdings Plc oppose the move and say nations could more effectively lower carbon emissions by investing in sustainable fuels and electric planes and simplifying air traffic control networks. [What utter nonsense …..]
Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association, last month urged carriers to better communicate what they’re doing to reduce emissions, warning: “We expect anti-flying sentiment to grow and spread.”
— With assistance by Hanna Hoikkala
IAG now rattled by growing awareness of carbon emissions from flying, and possibly lower passenger numbers
The airline industry is feeling under threat, from growing awareness across society – and it many other countries – that its carbon emissions are a problem. It fears there will be a drop in passenger numbers, if the concept of “flying shame” catches on, and if more people decide to fly less. So the industry is fighting back, with claims about how it is a “force for good” in the world, and how it is working really, really hard to reduce its emissions. Doing everything it can, other than actually not trying to keep growing. Willie Walsh admits aviation will keep on burning huge amounts of fossil fuel for decades, as there are no real alternatives (other than very tiny amounts of alternative fuels). He admits that the only solution is carbon offsets, as the emissions from aviation rise, and so at best emissions are net, not gross. Increases in aviation carbon just wipe out the cuts made elsewhere. The industry like to keep emphasising that the cost of flying must not be raised, putting it out of reach of the poor – but ignores the solution, that a frequent flyer levy could be imposed, giving each person a free flight per year, with escalating tax on subsequent flights. Most flights are taken by people who fly several (or many) times per year. IAG wants to give the impression of being a leader in carbon responsibility …while continuing with “business as usual” flying as much as it can.
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.
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”.