Jet aircraft have been flying in airline service since the ill-fated DeHavilland Comet in 1952. Flying was so glamorous that the term “jet set” was coined to described the envied international social group of wealthy people who hop-scotched around the world in what were presumed to be luxurious jet airliners.
Jet travel may no longer be as glamourous, but it’s become vastly more popular. Some 4.6 billion passengers are expected to take wing in 2019, supporting a trillion-dollar travel industry. But not if a growing group of European “flight shamers” and climate change protestors have their way.
Concerned about global climate change, a growing group of Northern European activists have begun to just say no to airline travel. Will such protests gain the momentum achieved by the anti-fossil fuel movement, as over one thousand institutional investors representing $6 trillion in funds have pledged fossil fuel divestment?
The Swedish-born “anti-flying” movement has grown, and its arresting if somber slogans like “flygskam” (“flight shame”) and “tågskryt,” (“train brag”) are being translated into many languages. One flight-boycotting British attorney, who formerly loved to travel, told Reuters, “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.”
“We should all fly less, the future of this planet is at stake,” said actress Dame Emma Thompson. But showing just how difficult such change is, her British Airways flight to London to support the Extinction Rebellion climate change protests reportedly generated two tons of carbon dioxide for each First Class passenger, such as Thompson. A British newspaper noted that the Extinction Rebellion group “insisted that the tons of carbon her flight produced for her to be at their protest was an ‘unfortunate cost in our bigger battle to save the planet’.”