Europeans Reduce Air Travel to Combat Climate Change

5th August 2019

Europeans are reducing their air travel and opting for mass transit and other forms of travel in an effort to combat climate change. Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist, has helped bring climate change into the spotlight in Europe after she announced plans that she will sail to New York in August inside of a zero-emission boat instead of flying in a plane.

Flygskam is in full swing in Sweden, or the season known as “flight shame.” Airlines note a growing number of Europeans that are limiting their air travel in favor of environmentally-friendly options. The trend is encouraging rail companies and many European governments to consider long-distance night trains to cash in on the growing industry.

Flight shame originated in Sweden after record-high temperatures and hot summers brought devastating wildfires to the country. Grassroots initiatives are also helping the trend move forward, with a goal of 100,000 Swedes renouncing air travel in 2020. The two initiatives led to 14,500 Swedes renouncing air travel in 2019.

Snålltåget, owner of the Malmo-Berlin line, claims that the trend to boycott airlines has helped save the company’s line. The company did not make a profit between 2012 and 2017, but in the first six months of 2019, Snålltåget has experienced a 20% increase in ticket sales. Flights between Malmo and Stockholm have declined by 10% in the last year and domestic flights across Sweden have fallen 4.5% in the first-quarter of 2019.

Flygskam is also being witnessed in other countries, but each has their own word for the trend. There have been movements calling for less air travel in Germany, Finland and The Netherlands. Flygfritt, the same grassroots initiative hitting Sweden, has expanded, with chapters in the UK, France and Germany.

Low carbon footprint travel was a major consideration for travelers in 2019, according to a recent survey. The survey found that 71% of interrail travelers chose to ride on rails because of the form of travel’s lower carbon footprint. The figure is an increase of nearly 20% since 2017.

OBB, Europe’s largest international passenger rail company, reports a 10% growth in the summer and spring compared to 2018 on many lines. Vienna to Zurich and Rome to Munich lines are full capacity this summer. The rail company claims that there is enough demand that they can run three trains in a single night all filled with passengers because of the increase growth in rail travel.