Aviation industry to counter flight shaming movement: IATA chief

KUWAIT (Reuters) - The aviation industry is to launch a campaign it hopes will counter a ‘flight shaming’ movement that has weakened demand for air travel in Europe where some travelers are increasingly concerned about their environmental impact.

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The industry’s image has been damaged this year by a growing Swedish-born movement led by activists such as teenager Greta Thunberg calling for greater action against climate change, including ditching air travel.

Global lobby International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents nearly 300 airlines, is coordinating the campaign which will involve industry stakeholders.

“We will launch a very, very big campaign ... to explain what we have done, what we are doing, and what we intend to do in the future,” IATA’s head Alexandre de Juniac told Reuters in an interview in Kuwait on Tuesday.

The campaign will try to explain to the public how the industry is reducing its environmental impact, countering what de Juniac said had been “misleading information.”

IATA is coordinating the plan through the Air Transport Action Group, a coalition of industry organizations and companies.

De Juniac did not say when the campaign would launch but said it would be available to stakeholders across the industry including airports and airlines.

Flight shaming has dented demand in Europe, particularly in northern parts but also in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

“It’s difficult to measure and beyond European borders we have seen nothing but it will come,” de Juniac said.

Commercial flying accounts for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions today but without concrete steps to alleviate the problem, that number could rise as global air travel increases.

The aviation industry has already cut carbon emissions from each plane traveler in half since 1990, largely thanks to more fuel-efficient aircraft, and has a plan to cut net emissions by 2050 and achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020.

Airlines have warned of the negative impact of the flight shaming movement and some have criticized the industry for so far failing to explain itself.

Emirates President Tim Clark said in October the industry had to do a better job addressing the issue, highlighting improvements in technology that have reduced the carbon footprint of aircraft.

Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise