Why Dutch airline KLM is telling customers to fly less



a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway

  • The Dutch airline KLM launched an environmental campaign titled “Fly Responsibly.”
  • The campaign, which encourages travelers to consider packing lighter, buying carbon offsets, or even flying less, is likely a response to the growing “flight shaming” movement in Northern Europe.
  • While commercial aviation only contributes 2% to 3% of total global emissions, that number is likely to increase without intervention.
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The Dutch airline KLM has launched a new campaign to confront the environmental impact of air travel.

The airline’s new “Fly Responsibly” campaign kicked off with a webpage hosted on a dedicated subdomain, and a video published on YouTube.

The campaign comes as the topic of “flight shaming” has been gaining traction this past spring and summer. A concept that originated among a group of Northern European environmental activists – particularly in Scandinavia – flight-shaming, or the anti-flying movement, has gained enough mainstream traction that airlines are starting to take notice.

Airlines such as Thomas Cook and SAS have recognized that anti-flying sentiment has increased in recent years, according to Skift, as emission-conscious passengers choose slower, but more efficient modes of travel when possible, particularly trains.

Although commercial flying accounts for just 2% to 3% of total global carbon emissions today, that number is likely to increase, particularly as passenger numbers are expected to double to 8.2 billion by 2037, according to the International Air Transport Association.

As emissions rise and passengers become more conscious of the impact of each flight they take, airlines find themselves in the difficult position of needing to continue to grow their businesses while acknowledging legitimate environmental concerns.

KLM’s video seemingly encourages viewers to fly less – “Do you always have to meet face-to-face? Could you take the train instead?” – but it’s likely simply a tactic to draw attention to the larger “Fly Responsibly” campaign.

The campaign’s website highlights various sustainability initiatives KLM currently has in place, like the development of a sustainable fuel plant, offering carbon offsets, and more. Some items, like packing lighter, which would reduce overall weight and fuel consumption, have obvious economic benefits for the airline.

However, promoting awareness of its environmental initiatives – including those already in place, those in development, and those that passengers can contribute to – suggests that KLM is taking the threat of flight-shaming seriously, and hopes that awareness is one way to combat the potential economic threat.

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