Sweden Records 9% Drop In Domestic Passengers— Is Flight Shaming To Blame?


**Update: 16/01/2020 @ 17:29. A representative from Swedavia Airports provided a comment to Simple Flying on its traffic figures. Read on for their response.**

Experts are suggesting that tell-tale signs of “flight shaming” are now present in Sweden. Swedavia, the company that owns a number of airports in Sweden, reported an overall decrease in the number of travelers in 2019 to and from Sweden in comparison to 2018. Is this the flight shaming movement taking effect? We take a closer look.

Ryanair at Stockholm
There has been a notable decrease in both domestic and international travel in Sweden. Photo: Babbsack via Wikimedia Commons

What do the numbers say?

On 10th January 2020, Swedavia Airports announced that it had seen a 4% reduction in the number of passengers in and out of Swedish airports last year. In 2019, there were around 40 million passengers flying to and from all 10 of Swedavia airports but that’s two million fewer people than in 2018.

Whilst generally speaking it was all air travel which reduced in 2019, the area most affected was domestic travel. In Stockholm Arlanda Airport alone, there was an 8% decrease in passengers for the whole of 2019. And this is Sweden’s largest airport. What’s more, just in the month of December 2019 presented 7% fewer passengers than December 2018. So, what’s going on?

Arlanda Airport, Sweden
Sweden’s largest airport is losing traffic. Photo: Andreas Trepte via Wikimedia Commons

Is it flight shaming?

Many media outlets have jumped to the conclusion that flight shaming is driving the decrease in air traffic in and out of Sweden. Are they right? Well, the primary concern of the flight shaming movement is to prohibit unnecessary travel. Ideally, people would find different ways to travel within their means before resorting to air travel. The perfect scenario would see no air travel at all.

Travelers should look to other modes of transport to take them from A to B. And this is where the domestic impact has really been seen. Countries like Germany are incentivizing citizens to take the train for trips within the country. That idea has caught on and with global awareness heightened on the escalating climate crisis, it’s clear that people’s attitudes are starting to change.

There is no planet B, sign, environment protest
Is flight shaming to blame? Photo: Garry Knight via Flickr

So, yes, for this reason, the reduction in domestic travel could be a direct result of flight shaming. But it’s not just off passengers’ own steam that this is happening. The Swedish government is taking steps to promote other forms of transport including reinstating sleeper trains for European crossings.

The other side of the coin

Flight shaming certainly can be attributed to the reduction in domestic and international travel. If we read into the sub-text of Swedavia’s press release it sounds like the climate crisis is putting its future on edge. At the end of the modest traffic figure report, Swedavia concludes with an unprovoked monologue about its sustainability promise. Despite the fact that it did not mention anything about the environment prior to this. It says:

“For many years, Swedavia has carried out ambitious sustainability work. All ten of its airports shall have zero emissions of fossil carbon dioxide from their own operations by 2020. Swedavia also works actively to promote the industry’s transition to bio fuel and has the goal that five per cent of all fuel used to refuel aircraft at Swedish airports shall be fossil-free by 2025. Since 2016, Swedavia buys bio jet fuel equivalent to the amount the company uses on flights for business purposes, about 450 tonnes of fuel a year.” 


However, flight shaming might not be the only perpetrator for domestic travel to decrease. Officially, Swedavia has not jumped to a single conclusion. A spokesperson for Swedavia told the BBC there were:

“…a number of reasons for the decrease, citing Swedish aviation tax, softening economy worries, the weak Swedish crown and the climate debate.”

What’s more, regardless of all the flight shaming suspicions, it’s clear that air travel has not taken a complete nosedive in Sweden. Göteborg Landvetter Airport experienced an increase in international passengers among other airports. A spokesperson for Swedavia Airports to Simple Flying:

“Long term we still see growth in air travelling.”

The international market is still growing despite the strength of environmental concerns. The same can’t be said for domestic travel.

Do you think flight shaming is to blame for the reduction in domestic Swedish air traffic? Let us know your thoughts below!