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Flight Shaming Travelers? Here’s Why Flying Is Not the Enemy

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“Flying is not the enemy.”

Those were the words of International Air Transport Association (IATA) director-general Alexandre de Juniac back in September of 2019, on the eve of the United Nations’ triennial International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly.

This assembly was particularly noteworthy, as 16-year old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg made impassioned pleas – both in formal speeches and through the media – to trim air travel to cut carbon emissions.

The movement became known as ‘flight shaming’ and, no, nobody was talking about passengers picking their noses on flights, clipping their toenails in the aisle or other crazy things people do on flights. While that is humorous and even has its own Facebook page, this is far more serious.

Now comes word that Sweden believes a decline in air traffic year over year is a direct result of flight shaming. The passenger count at Swedish airports dropped 4% from its record high of 42 million in 2018 to just more than 40 million last year. Just in domestic travel alone from points within Sweden, air travel dropped 9%.

“Flying is not the enemy.”

Look, we all know airplanes leave a dramatic carbon emission on the environment. By some reports, the industry accounts for almost 3% of the world’s carbon emissions.

But this is a slippery slope.

A fine line.

A conundrum, really.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not a completely one-sided argument. It’s not good vs. evil. There are many things to be said about taking care of the environment.

But there are also many things to be said about flying.

– It connects and, literally, fosters love by bringing together friends and family no matter how far apart.

– Flying is a time machine. It can take you from techie-centric San Jose to the monuments of ancient Rome.

– For long distances, it is the quickest way to travel.

– For any distance, it remains statistically the safest mode of transportation.

– Flying, and fliers, is a community unto itself.

– Flying, in short, shrinks the world and makes it a better place.

We could go on.

The point is, it’s hard to “shame” an entire industry that does so much good. There has to be a happy medium between both sides and the fact remains that aviation – from the manufacturers to the airlines – has been doing its part to lower its carbon footprint.

Flying, indeed, is not the enemy.

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