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Skyllence CEO Vilma Vaitiekunaite: Increasing summer travel may bring with it the risk of high-flight shame language

In the wake of what many anticipate to be a busy travel season this summer, flight-shaming language is expected to heighten in volume.  After the slump in travel during the pandemic period, air travel is slowly adjusting to pre-pandemic levels. Air travel is expected to attain the 2-3% growth witnessed in 2019 after making a 70% recovery in 2022. There is also a new leaf of optimism among travelers who are keen on having a break from their busy schedules, with experts predicting favorable weather patterns for the upcoming summer.

In retrospect, all this exciting news risks being dampened if there is an increase in flight-shaming language targeting HNWIs and VIPs. While air travel trends improve for the summer, it’s inevitable for the conversations around climate change to peak, drawing more attention to the insatiable state of aviation.

The new European Carbon Market Directive (CMD) came into effect just recently in 2022, with the intention to reduce emissions by 42% by 2030 from 2005 levels. The new directive will make it mandatory for airlines flying into EU airports above a certain size (globally) to purchase permits for their CO2 emissions. Such developments, coupled with the overheating concerns of third-party carbon advisors and eco-activists, raise serious concerns for HNWIs and VIPs, who have become easy targets for flight shaming.

Interesting, though, is the fact that the airline industry only accounts for a mere 3% of all carbon emissions. Subsequent breakdown will show that private jet travel by HNWIs and VIPs bears a much lesser carbon imprint vis a vis commercial air travel, which accounts for the huge volume of the 3% carbon emissions. Distinctive industries, such as the personal automobile industry are far more notorious for carbon emissions than air travel yet receive comparatively less travel shaming.

Availability bias is a concept better positioned to explain this phenomenon where, despite contributing to a lesser carbon imprint, air travel has become an easy target for travel shaming. The masses have been pulled into a frenzy and bombarded with information to depict air travel, and more so, private jet travel, as so wasteful and unnecessary that it contributes to a massive carbon footprint. The fact that air travel accounts for only 3% of all carbon emissions in 2019 and is growing only by 3% this year, means the masses have been purposely misinformed by the agenda-driven sources that paint private jet travel as environmentally and socially immoral.

The unwarranted criticism of air travel has become rather influential owing to its unprecedented entry into the political arena, where key policy frameworks are enforced to introduce taxes that have conveniently been labeled, eco-tax but which have little to no impact on the very environmental project they claim to represent. Other examples are regulations forcing airlines to buy costly carbon allowances, which can be far more expensive than the carbon emitted by flying. However, such inflated costs, coupled with the airline industry’s rooted efforts to reduce its carbon footprint through conservation and technology manufacturing efforts, have failed to keep up with the emotional shunning some people are engaging in.

The flight-shaming analogy also goes so far as to ignore efforts by private travel entities to make private air travel not only sustainable but worthwhile in the long run. Private jet-traveling entities are ahead of their counterparts in commercial air travel in adopting new technologies and strategies that are less polluting but still maintain the desired speed and convenience. Private jets are poised to trailblaze the adoption of hybrid electric engines, which are essentially more efficient and cost-effective in general operations above and beyond the old-generation engines.

Worth noting is the sheer interest by Private jet providers in partnering with multilaterals across the globe in a bid to establish fully pledged networks of refueling stations in various destinations, providing seamless service and cost-effectiveness. More importantly, it’s a partnership that, as it gets rolled up in more destinations over the summer and in 2024, promises to rise above the criticism that private jet travel is inconsiderate and wasteful. A limited number of private jets boasts the inclusion of onboard refueling equipment, and it is predicted that by 2030, this will not only become a common practice among private jet operators but one that raises the mark up. Yet, that has not barred private jet entities from committing to begin the process of demonstrating to skeptics and the rest of the industry their willingness to revolutionize the perception that private jet travel can and will be sustainable not only now but in the foreseeable future.

However, as the relentless fight against climate change continues across Europe, the United States, Asia, and elsewhere, one cannot help but wonder: is there a genuine plan in place to target those responsible for producing massive carbon footprints and stop masking behind easy targets for the instant gratification it attracts? Only time will tell. The upcoming summer is all but guaranteed to experience a surge in travel, and HNWIs and VIPs will continue to serve as easy targets for flight-shaming criticism. Everyone will be watching to see if the climate change agenda really does play out into being more targeted and better informed than it has been in the past or if it can be used to enforce unwarranted laws and regulations.

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