What is flight-shaming?

If you haven’t been living under a rock you’ve probably heard about the worldwide climate strikes movement in 2019, but have you heard of another environmental movement called flight-shaming? This movement that started in Sweden has had a rising impact all over Europe over the past year. But what exactly is flight-shaming? 

Also known as Flygskam (“flight shame” in Swedish), this movement is part of the global action taken worldwide against climate change and aims its focus on airlines. This time, in order to reduce our impact on the environment, it isn’t single-use plastic cups and cutlery onboard that are being targeted, but the planes themselves. The ambassadors of this movement (Greta Thunberg amongst them), consider flying to be too polluting. They encourage people to avoid taking the plane when more environment-friendly alternatives such as travelling by train instead exist. 

Indeed, a plane produces on average 140g of CO2 per traveller & kilometres when it’s barely 3g/km when travelling by train. Commercial flights are responsible for up to 3% of worldwide carbon emission. Taking fewer flights when possible or avoiding flying altogether are therefore the main resolve of that movement. For example, Greta Thunberg hasn’t taken any flights since 2015 and has been taking the train to reach her destinations or even the boat. 

While critics point out the time needed in order to travel by train or the logistics it takes for families travelling together, many people still decide to change their habits and take part in that movement, encouraging their friends and family to do the same. 

The results are already visible in Sweden. The country that plans to be carbon neutral by 2045 has already seen the number of its internal flights drop while its national rail service reported a record 32 million customers last year. All over Europe in the past years have seen an increase in rail travel, especially amongst younger travellers and backpackers but this movement could very well speed up the trend. 

On top of protecting the environment, travelling by train allows you to see more than you would have on a plane. If you’re leaving for a week or two (or more!) you could make stops along the way and discover more cities than you originally intended to before reaching your destination. It’s a way of revisiting holiday travels and include travel itself as part of the trip – all while protecting the environment! 

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