The anti-flying movement also known as “flight shame” (or flygskam in Swedish) is all about taking accountability for our carbon footprint and promoting a rather eco-friendly travel trend. This movement speaks to the guilt of taking flights in the era of climate change and being “woke” about the environment.

Like the financial startup Klarna Bank AB, whose employees chose to the take the 15-hour schlep by train and bus than a 90-minute flight to the German capital, most of Sweden is now choosing other modes of transport over the aviation industry. France and other parts of Europe now to seem to be joining the trend of flight shaming under #avihonte (aviation shame) creating a surge in the European aviation market. SAS AB a Scandinavian airline company has reported due to the #flygskam movement, airline traffic has fallen by 2% in the last nine months, causing operations in the domestic travel sector to fall by 9%.

But What Is Flight Shaming?

Well, the main idea of “Flight Shame” is as clear as day – feeling embarrassed of, or shaming one for, choosing to fly, over other transportation options due to the impact it has on the environment.

View this post on Instagram

‪Good news!‬ ‪I’ll be joining the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, COP25 in Santiago and other events along the way.‬ ‪I’ve been offered a ride on the 60ft racing boat Malizia II. We’ll be sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from the UK to New York in mid August.‬ The science is clear. We must start bending the emissions curve steeply downwards no later than 2020, if we still are to have a chance of staying below a 1,5 degrees of global temperature rise. We still have a window of time when things are in our own hands. But that window is closing fast. That is why I have decided to make this trip now. During the past year, millions of young people have raised their voice to make world leaders wake up to the climate and ecological crisis. Over the next months, the events in New York and Santiago de Chile will show if they have listened. Together with many other young people across the Americas and the world, I will be there, even if the journey will be long and challenging. We will make our voices heard. It is our future on the line, and we must at least have a say in it. The science is clear and all we children are doing is communicating and acting on that united science. And our demand is for the world to unite behind the science. ‪#UniteBehindTheScience‬

A post shared by Greta Thunberg (@gretathunberg) on

According to BBC, the flight shame movement emerged in 2017, when a group of Swedish celebrities and a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg committed to travel by train overflights to promote environmentally friendly travel trends and educate others of the impact it has on the greenhouse gas emissions.

Usually followed by the hashtag #jagstannarpåmarken, translated as #stayontheground, the movement has gained quite a bit traction not just affecting the travel industry in and around Europe but also certain parts of the US. 

Also Read: Plane Travel Is Bad For The Environment, But Here’s What You Can Do

Here is why flight shaming is perceived as important:
  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recorded that 4.1 billion passengers were carried in 2017. They estimate that this number would increase by double to 8.2 billion by the end of 2030, further increasing air travel and the aviation industry. 
  • Thus, every time a flight takes off, it defies nature exacerbating the climate impact by trapping thermal radiation and other emissions causing substantial damage, at least double the amount of CO2 emission alone. 
  • Or in simple terms- Average CO2 emission per air kilometre is 285 grams while by car is 158 and 14 grams by train. 
Stockholm and on-ground part of the subway line, Sweden

Thus, concluding that even though decades of cycling to work, eating with wooden cutlery or even carrying copper water bottles won’t matter because the minute you choose to get seated on the plane and take off you are undoing a lot of your conscious environmental efforts.

Here’s How Flight Shaming Is Affecting The European Travel Market

UK based activists, Anna Hughes (who is also the founder of Flight Free 2020) suggested that most countries offer faster and also very enjoyable transportation options that as subsequently overlooked. In most countries in Europe, the train typically connects one city centre to another prompted with high-speed lines that not only reduce the need for aviation transport to same routes but also “create the opportunity for fascinating and slow journeys”.

View this post on Instagram

#Repost thanks to @mikaelaloach – doesn't she look happy to be travelling flight free, why don't you join her??? #flightfree2020 #travelbytrain • • Here's what she says about going Flight Free: "?✈FLIGHT FREE TRAVEL ?✈⁣ ⁣ We're going to the South of France by train rather than flying! ? Choosing to go by rail may take longer, but this means we're putting 33x LESS carbon emissions into the atmosphere ?? ⁣ ⁣ I took multiple flights this summer already and so when my partner wanted to have a wee break away for the end of the summer (as he hasn't had a break from work all year) I worked out how we could have a holiday in the sun, without the flying. ?⁣ ⁣ Stopping flying is one of the biggest things you can do to reduce your impact on our climate. A recent study showed that a domestic flight from NYC to LA produced the same amount of carbon emissions as the average person in the US does in a month. Mad. ☁️ ⁣ ⁣ @treesnpeace and @gretathunberg have been huge inspirations to me for travelling flight free, previously I would have just got a cheap flight deal somewhere rather than spending a bit more time and money.⭐⁣ we're all on a journey with eco living! ⁣ We're going to be as eco friendly as possible on this trip & I'm excited for it! ?⁣ ⁣ First stop, Paris! ??⁣ ⁣ disclaimer: travelling of any kind is a massive privilege. I think a lot of us could do with a big reminder of that. Most people have never flown at all! Trains are expensive but there are tips i found to make it more affordable. I'll do a post going into some of this more later on!"

A post shared by Flight Free 2020 (@flightfree2020) on

Even though Hughes sentiments are right and purposed, she tends to lack to take into consideration the projection of huge rise in flights and the urban culture of “binge flyers”. It is, of course, easy to change one’s individual action but to expect collective action against air travel is short from crazy, especially when “there is no easy substitute for flying to faraway places” as expressed by Mathilde Szuba, a French political scientist.

Also Read: The Global Climate Strike: Protesters Worldwide Take To The Street

However, with flygskam gaining momentum, parts of US, Canada, Belgium and France, are all reconsidering air travel and beginning their own initiatives to encourage other means of travel adding new meaning to the saying- it’s not about the destination but rather the journey.

What do you think about flight shaming? Let us know below. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here