How big is ‘flight shame’ as a phenomenon?   

August 16, 2019

Aviation is growing fast on the back of the global economy to facilitate commerce, deliver critical goods, stay connected and quench our thirst for experiences. But a stormy new counter trend has emerged from the larger sustainability drive: Flight shame. 

 The media storm emerged as Swedish teenage activist, Greta Thunberg, went on strike and spoke powerfully at the recent UN summit after getting there by train over several days. In the wake of this storm Swedish air travel dropped 8% after years of growth, primarily driven by domestic travel switching to trains.  

 Since then many Western countries have reported similar activity albeit not backed up with as strong evidence. For example, a recent UK study showed that about 25% of the broad population both saw an issue with flying and felt that they had good alternatives, however, what people say and do can be very different things.       

 Still, the focus on sustainability has accelerated over the past six months to a degree where it has become a major issue in terms of business demand forecasting for major players in the passenger transport sector – most notably European aviation – and while this is still not showing up to a large degree in the +40 airport we do market research in, then our point of view is ignore at your own peril! 

 Now is the time to assess and measure both the attitudes and the actual behavior in relation to sustainable travel for the different key travel segments and follow the development to align business activities – because this storm looks like it will not go away without casualties.