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The Flight Shaming movement is sweeping across the world and is slowly becoming an eyesore for the aviation industry.
Flight Shaming or ‘flygskam’ is a movement started in 2018 by Olympic athlete Bjorn Ferry and propelled by the opera singer Malena Ernman, who also happens to be climate change activist Great Thunberg’s mother.
In simple terms, the movement discourages people from flying and suggests to use other means of transport. A symbiotic movement, the Tågskryt, is also taking pace across Europe. Translated as ‘train brag’, it encourages people to take a train in place of a flight and post it on social media using the hashtag #tågskryt.
Is air travel really a culprit?
Commercial flights make up around 2.5 per cent of global carbon emissions. If looked at from a neutral point-of-view, this seems like a small number, with other non-suspect industries like fashion or meat industries having a larger carbon footprint than aviation.
However, a return passenger from London to Singapore generates 2297 kg of carbon dioxide, which is more than what an average citizen in 96 countries produces throughout an year (more in this link). Needless to say, the carbon footprint of the aviation industry is considerably large.
What adds fuel to the fire is the fact that the airline industry has a considerable set of advancements available to reduce their carbon footprints. Aircraft like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 claim to reduce the carbon footprints by upto half. Airlines are testing electric airplanes as well as biofuels to reduce their carbon emissions. Not only does it make sense from a public image perspective, but also a very strong economic sense for airlines to shift to less carbon-intensive ways.
How can airlines tackle it?
Citi estimates that over the next five years the cost of carbon offsetting economy flights will grow to $3.8 billion per year. Which is why airlines need to find ways to tackle this growing anti-aviation sentiment.
Let us divide the possible solutions into two categories – short and long-term.
In short-term, airlines can plan to launch communication campaigns based on their commitments to reduce their carbon footprints, providing actions taken or scheduled in the near future. Post a steady run of these campaigns, airlines can also launch campaigns centred on the functional benefits of taking a flight with respect to any other means of transport and how much aviation matters to the world.
In long-term, airlines and governments need to make a strategic shift to less carbon-intensive fuels and aircraft designs.
Cover credits: Eduard Heisterkamp, Wikimedia Commons