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Young people ready to fly less, but not to ban it

“Since 2020 I haven’t taken the plane and I don’t intend to take it for several years”: More and more young people are reducing their air travel, which is considered too polluting, without giving it up definitively.

Like Anouk Debizet, 81% of young people aged 18 to 35 are “ready to change their travel practices for environmental reasons or are already doing so,” according to an ObSoCo survey conducted for Greenpeace in February 2022.

“I come from a wealthy social background. With my parents, as a child I had the opportunity to fly to Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Canada… I was very lucky, says the 25-year-old young woman, associated with administration and production at the Maison de la Kultur in Seine-Saint-Denis. “I’ve already had enough, it’s up to me to stop because I’m one of the privileged people who could fly,” she said.

Say no to the plane “it’s scary”

These choices are reminiscent of the movement born in Sweden in 2018, “flygskam” (“the shame of flying” in Swedish), which intends to denounce the impact of air transport on global warming, which is responsible for 2 to 3% of global emissions of CO2.

In Nantes, Agathe Violain, 31, manager of a barter, also finds it “very pleasant to take the time to visit your region instead of ‘hurrying’ (rushing) to take a plane to spend three days in another country”, she says, not sure of giving it up once and for all.

“In my entourage I don’t have anyone who says 100% ‘it’s over’. We are a generation brought up in ‘it’s crazy to be able to go where we want, when we want’ and there we find ourselves in ‘maybe we should stop’ mode. Saying no forever to something is scary,” she says.

On low-cost flights, the average age of passengers is getting younger

For Armelle Solelhac, founder of the Switch agency, which specializes in forecasting and strategy in tourism, “many young people say they want to prefer softer means of mobility to preserve the environment”. But “the reality is that what still guides their choice – and understandably – is their financial means” and “air tickets over certain distances are still much cheaper than the train or a trip by car”, she recalls.

66% of young people who are considering a different means of transport than the plane are considering it for cost reasons. Only 13% consider it for ecological reasons, according to the ObSoCo survey. “After Covid, the average age of travelers on low-cost airlines has even become younger”, according to Armelle Solelhac.

“Young people do not choose their destination based on the ecological effect of their stay. The carbon footprint is even the last criterion mentioned in the choice of a mode of transport”, according to ObSoCo, which notes that a “small majority of air travelers (51%) declare themselves sensitive to the carbon footprint of their flight. However, 38% of young people surveyed said they “feel guilty when flying and one in five feel pressure from those around them”.

Self-censorship and guilt

“They practice a form of self-censorship, on social networks, we will no longer see them on the tarmac or in airplanes next to the window, we will see them in photos directly from tourist destinations”, notes Armelle Solelhac. Conversely, “people enjoy the fact of getting around in soft mobility”, she says, citing “an executive who recently highlighted on a professional network the fact of having gone to a wedding in Morocco by bicycle”.

This is Thibaut Labey, 37, who lives in Morbihan and founded the Chilowé guide specializing in “outdoor micro-adventures”. The traveler remains amazed by the success of his publication on the network, including from the point of view of negative reviews.

Not taking the flight “remains a touchy subject, people have the impression of being attacked by your approach”, he says. “I’m not trying to blame people. Guilt is not a good driver of change,” he says.

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