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Airline tells passengers: ‘Why not catch a train instead?’

July 9, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A social phenomenon known as “flight shaming” – which condemns airline passengers for contributing to global warming – has culminated in the chief executive of the Netherlands’ national airline, KLM, publishing an open letter encouraging people to “fly responsibly” – or not fly at all.

An ad for KLM’s Fly Responsibly campaign, launched to coincide with the airline’s 100th anniversary, asks anyone thinking of flying to consider other options.

The video ad starts with an eyebrow-raising screen statement, perhaps tongue-in-cheek: “No actual flights were taken for the making of this film”.

That’s a salute to the old Hollywood line: “No animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture”, an endorsement by the American Humane Association shown before films.

The KLM ad then gets serious about avoiding flights.

“Do you always have to meet face-to-face?” it asks.

“Could you take the train instead? Could you contribute by compensating your CO2 emissions or just travelling light?”

“A hundred years of aviation comes with great responsibility,” the airline adds. “Because you want our children to get to know this beautiful world too, right?”

It concludes: “We all have to fly now and then. But next time, think about flying responsibly.”

The ad, lasting just 82 seconds, can be viewed below:

While some see KLM’s stance as ethical, others fear it may play into the hands of “flight shaming”, an anti-flying movement that originated in Sweden last year. Flight shaming (flygskam in Swedish) encourages people to stop taking flights to lower carbon emissions. The movement is sweeping Europe.

A parallel movement, also born in Sweden, is tagskryt (“train brag”) in which people who travel by train, rather than plane, post pictures on social media using the hashtag #tagskryt.

KLM president and chief executive, Pieter Elbers, says sustainable development in aviation is not a “one-airline-topic” and “actual progress will only be made when we work together as an industry.

“That’s why with the launch of the ‘Fly Responsibly’ initiative, we invite others to use our CO2Zero-program for carbon compensation free of charge and free of brand, and partner in our corporate BIO-fuel program.”

KLM Boeing 777, Archiefnummer: 12031-003
© KLM (Photo: Capital Photos)

Although IATA says the aviation industry is responsible for only 2% to 3% of global manmade CO2 emissions, air travel is expected to double by 2036. Another aspect of “flight shaming” is that only the richer sector of the world’s population can afford to fly.

KLM says: “If you choose our CO2ZERO service, you contribute to the ‘CO2OL Tropical Mix’ reforestation initiative in Panama where so far at least 3.5 million trees have been planted.​ You can select CO2ZERO when you book your flight and manage this option via MyTrip on KLM’s website or the KLM app.”

Elbers wrote in his open letter: “When we started 100 years ago, our major concern was your safety. Little did we know about the impact we would have on the environment. Today we know aviation comes with another big responsibility – to make sure our children have a planet to explore as well.”

Elbers points out that for the past 14 years KLM has been among the top three in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

The anti-flying “flight shaming” movement promotes rail as a better alternative

JUST RECENTLY, another airline, Air New Zealand, drilled down through its 2018 data and found that British passengers are far more eco-conscious than those in Australia or New Zealand.

Air NZ said more of its customers around the world were choosing to fly carbon neutral, offsetting more than 174,400 trips – or 50,000 tonnes of carbon. That was up 34.5% on the previous year – but it’s still only a small minority.

The percentage of passengers choosing to carbon-offset their journeys on Air New Zealand were: New Zealand 4.6%; United Kingdom ​9.7%​; United States​ 7.2%​; Canada ​6%​ and Australia​ 4.2%.

Written by Peter Needham

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