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Domestic air travel has dipped as climate-conscious Swedes opt for train. But will ‘flight shame’ become the norm – and what might it mean for business travel?

This year’s Swedish buzzword is a travel trend: flygskam, which translates as "flight shame". It encourages people to stop flying to lower carbon emissions and take the train instead. Then they can indulge in a spot of tågskryt ("train bragging") by posting pictures on the 90,000-strong Tågsemester ("train holiday") Facebook group or using the hashtag #jagstannarpåmarken ("I stay on the ground"). Too busy to take the train? Att smygflyga ("flying in secret") may result.

Flygskam is changing Swedish travel habits. Some public figures have given up flying, including opera singer Malena Ernman, mother of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Thirty-seven per cent now say they choose trains instead of flights when possible, up from 20% just 18 months ago. The number of domestic passengers at airports owned by operator Swedavia fell 15% in April compared to the same month last year. It’s affecting business travel too: the main Swedish train operator, SJ, reported a 12% rise in business passenger numbers in the first three months of this year. As more Swedish businesses adopt rail-friendly travel policies, workers are taking the train to meetings in London, Frankfurt and Geneva – the latter involving a 23-hour journey from Stockholm.

Though train bragging is mainly a European phenomenon (and unlikely to deter super-commuters), the global air industry is worried. "Unchallenged, this sentiment will grow and spread," says Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association.

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Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.