Still ashamed of flying or already sitting proudly on a train?


Kirstin Brünjes,


The aviation industry is gradually flying out of the `Corona low` and is picking up speed again. But one thing is certain: in the future, “higher, further, faster” will no longer be possible for air traffic. Because otherwise we will surpass the climate target of 1.5 degrees.

Related SDGs

Flying is bad for the climate and with increasing global warming, some holiday planners have a guilty conscience when deciding whether or not they should take the plane for the next trip. Alternative environmentally friendly means of transport, on the other hand, promote a good feeling.


Only a minority of the world's population - 1% to be precise - is responsible for the enormous greenhouse gas emissions caused by flights. The vast majority of people in the world have never flown. In order to achieve the world climate goals, however, we have to fly less. Unfortunately, a few people reducing their air travel will not help us get closer to the climate targets. In addition, it is currently still the case that the number of air passengers is increasing again and we are a long way off having CO2-neutral aircraft. So what to do in this transition phase? Boycott flying or wrap yourself in flight shame on the plane?

Desire to travel - despite flight shame

In connection with the topics of travel planning and the current debate about climate protection, there is increasing talk about flight shame. Translated from the Swedish “flygskam”, it describes the feeling of air travelers who are aware of their personal CO₂ footprint when flying, but still fly with a guilty conscience. Flight shame can also lead to a conscious decision not to travel by air and to switch to alternative means of transport, such as bus or train, when planning one's journey. More and more holidaymakers are asking themselves the question - to fly or not to fly. Generational differences can be identified. Since "Fridays for Future", the shame of flying has taken hold, especially and more so among young people.

Generational differences in flight shame

In Germany, flight shame has now been statistically evaluated. This showed that Generation Z (Fridays-for-Future-Generation) is the most environmentally aware: 26% of 18 to 24-year-olds have already felt ashamed of traveling by plane. In the generation before that, the Millennials (25 to 39 years), it is 24%. In comparison: Among the baby boomers (55 to 75 year olds) it is only nine percent.

Get off the plane and into the `Train Proud`

Train proud is the reverse version of flight shame and keeps its promise: adventurous train experiences, like-minded people in on-board bistros and train station halls, anticipation and above all, time – to read, to work, to reflect.

And then you find yourself there at dawn in Lisbon. In the middle of the old town and not in the arrivals hall of an airport.

Tom Hoferick, passionate train driver.

Train Proud and on the move within a 1000 km radius

Dr. Philipp Staudacher, our expert on biodiversity (SDG 14 and 15) and other environmental issues, shares some valuable guidelines. The question of flying was discussed in the research community, for example the Swiss aquatic research institute Eawag or the ETH Zurich. “In the last decade we have become aware of the climate crisis. Some of us have taken action and are now reducing the impact of our lives on the planet,” said Philipp. The result of his working group: Within a radius of 1000 kilometers around the place of residence or work, flying should be avoided and public transport should be the preferred choice. Additional time spent on the train can often be compensated, as long-distance train journeys allow uninterrupted work on the laptop.

Stay grounded

The flying 1% of the world population have many alternatives (and reasons) to stay on the ground, because there is always another option that can get us to our goal in a climate-friendly way. You can drive across the country with train pride, take part in a virtual meeting, or decide to simply fly less.

And if you fly, you have the opportunity to get involved in climate protection projects: with the help of the MyClimate flight emissions calculator, you can calculate your emissions for a specific flight route. The calculator then suggests climate protection projects based on the CO2 consumption of your flight, with which you can offset your flight.

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