“flygskam”, Traveling By Plane Has Become A Source Of Shame In Sweden

Stockholm Flygskam Airport
Stockholm airport. Image: Lia Koltyrina Shutterstock

The Swedish airport operator reports a decline in passenger numbers, while railways are registering a record number of passengers: Since Greta Thunberg leads protests in the country, more and more Swedes are stopping flying for environmental reasons.

Terms like “flygskam” (literally “airplane embarrassment”), “tagskryt” (bragging about going by train) and “smygflyga” (flying in secret) are becoming more and more popular.

Fewer and fewer passengers on airplanes, and more on trains: in Sweden, the “flygskam” is becoming increasingly popular, leading thousands of people to choose less polluting transport systems to the detriment of airlines.

Swedavia AB, the service company that manages 10 of the main Swedish airports, including those in Stockholm and Gothenburg, has made this phenomenon known: according to the data published by the operator, the number of travelers who have chosen the plane has been decreasing consistently in the last 7 months, while last year was the one with the lowest growth in passenger numbers in a decade. On the other hand, SJ, the operator of the Swedish State Railways, registered 32 million passengers on its trains last year, a record that the operator links to growing interest in greener travel.

A trend that coincides with the beginning of the student protest born in Sweden, with the young Greta Thunberg at the forefront, who since September has highlighted the importance of traveling by train and not by plane to combat climate change.

Boeing 737 SAS airlines
Boeing 737 SAS airlines. Image: Aapsky Shutterstock

The phenomenon is so widespread that the largest Swedish airline, Scandinavia Airlines (SAS), is concerned. Under the pressure of falling passengers, SAS is applying a series of measures to make its flights more sustainable: from the replacement of the old and polluting McDonnell Douglas MD-80 with the more modern Airbus A320, from the replacement of seats by seats more light (to reduce the weight and consumption of aircraft) to the optimization of the number of meals to embark on the estimation of advance orders made by passengers at the time of ticket purchase.

SAS considers biofuels as a possible solution : to increase the availability of biofuels, of which there are currently not enough stocks to meet the demand of the civil aviation sector, the airline has started a collaboration with a biorefinery that should reduce the emissions from the levels recorded in 2005 by 25% by 2030.

Swedavia AB has also launched communication campaigns to assure passengers of the aviation sector’s commitment to reducing emissions, such as the program that should bring the same company to zero CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in the airports managed by the end of 2020.

A WWF study states that 23% of Swedes have abandoned the plane precisely to reduce its environmental impact, while 18% have chosen the train as an alternative for the same reasons.

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