Flight passenger growth could halve due to ‘flight shame’, says new research

More than a fifth of people say they have reduced number of flights they take

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 02 October 2019 11:37 BST

The expected growth in air travel passenger numbers could halve due to climate change fears, according to new research.

Swiss bank UBS surveyed more than 6,000 people from the UK, US, Germany and France about their flying habits, and found the rise of “flight shame” or flygskam seems to be spreading.

More than a fifth (21 per cent) of those surveyed said had they had intentionally reduced the number of flights they took over the last year.

While just 16 per cent of British travellers claimed to be cutting back, 24 per cent of Americans said climate change had convinced them to reduce the number of flights they took.

According to UBS, there has been a marked increase in the number of people purporting to be curbing their flying habit since the survey was first conducted in May 2019.

Part of this could be due to the flight shame movement, which started in Sweden but has since gained traction further afield thanks to high profile examples, such as teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s recent trip to the US by yacht.

Attention-grabbing protests from climate change activism group Extinction Rebellion, which has targeted the aviation industry in the past, have also raised awareness of the issue this year.

The number of air travel passengers has been rising at a rate of 4-5 per cent a year – a statistic the two biggest planemakers, Airbus and Boeing, use to calculate future passenger growth.

Both have predicted passenger numbers will roughly double by 2035.

However, based on current trends, UBS estimates EU flight numbers will increase by just 1.5 per cent – half the number expected by Airbus – with US growth forecast at 1.3 per cent, rather than the planemaker’s prediction of 2.1 per cent.

If UBS’s forecasts are correct, it could result in aircraft orders dropping by 110 per year.

It comes as even airlines are committing to tackle climate change; this summer, Dutch carrier KLM encouraged passengers to “fly responsibly” and announced it was launching train services as an alternative to its Amsterdam-Brussels route.

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