Why we are flight free

Why We Are Flight-Free

…And why it matters.

It’s No Fly Travel Club for a reason.

Tourism globally can do good. We know that it plays an important role in the world economy, and – done right – it provides opportunities to empower local communities and preserve cultures. But tourism is, for many of us, interlinked with aviation – the elephant in the room for many travel companies that champion sustainability. It’s a controversial topic, to say the least.

envrionmental impact of flying

We do not believe that flying can or should stop completely, however, we do know that our current levels of air travel are unsustainable. We wanted to inspire travellers with other options, and we have decided to take a bold approach.

No Fly Travel Club runs trips in the UK and Europe which are 100% flight free. We are committed not only to providing more sustainable choices to travellers, but also to raising the profile of overland travel within the travel industry, and supporting campaigns against aviation subsidies at government level.

It’s only fair that we explain this choice – so read on to understand our why.

So, Why is Flying Such a Big Issue?

Flying is the single most carbon intensive activity that the majority of us will choose to engage in during our lives. There are no viable sustainable modes of air travel currently on the market. It is also reserved for a small (but rapidly growing) proportion of the world’s population.

Our unsustainable levels of air travel, more so than other drivers of climate change, most harm the people and places who have least to do with them. It is not just an environmental issue, but also an issue of climate justice.

With climate change already causing chaos around the world, we don’t have time to wait for alternatives. We need to show governments that we are willing to make different choices, and to put our money into low carbon transport now.

Just how much C02 does flying produce?

Globally, approximately 2-3% of all C02 emissions are produced as a result of aviation. In the UK, our love of travel means airline emissions contribute 7-8% of our emissions nationally.

The average UK citizen has a carbon footprint of 12.7 tonnes per year (that’s equivalent to putting your heating on full blast for 80 days in a row). A 2 hour return flight emits roughly 0.4 tonnes of C02.

That means if you take just 3 return flights per year, your short-haul emissions alone would account for 10% of your entire annual carbon footprint. If you’re vegan, don’t own a car or cut your emissions in other ways, it could be closer to 20%. You can check how your flights impact your footprint using Mossy Earth’s calculator.

As governments and airlines around the world push for rapid, exponential growth in passenger numbers, it’s unclear how the associated emissions can be balanced against our net-zero (let alone absolute zero) commitments.

But is flying really that bad for the environment?

Emissions released at altitude have a more damaging effect than those released at ground level. This means that airline emissions contribute relatively more to the atmospheric warming effect than other equivalent emissions. You can read an explanation of why that is here.

While of course there are other moves we need to take to lower our emissions, experts widely agree that flying is one of the most important areas for governments and individuals to cut down.

What are the social justice considerations?

One return short-haul flight emits more C02 in four hours than the average citizen of Madagascar emits in total per year.

Incidentally, Madagascar is currently experiencing the world’s first “climate change induced” famine.

How bad is flying for the environment?

In 2018, 11% of the world’s population boarded a plane – just 4% flew internationally. You may not feel like it, but if you take 3 or more flights per year you are a “Frequent Flyer” – one of the top 1% of air passengers worldwide who generate over 50% of the world’s aviation emissions.

So many aspects of life around the world are hard to control. Supermarket supply chains are largely invisible, many of us have no choice but to use our cars to get from A to B and not everyone has access to recycling facilities…

Those of us privileged enough to travel multiple times a year for leisure do have a choice around where we travel and how we get there. It’s not a case of feeling guilty, but of making conscious choices where we have the ability to do so.

What about sustainable aviation?

There must be a way to get around all this without cutting down our flights, right? A common argument is that flying can be made sustainable through the use of new, green technologies and fuels, giving us license to expand flight paths and airports.

However, the truth is that sustainable aviation is still a long way off, and the climate crisis is happening now. We (and particularly those already facing climate catastrophe) don’t have time to wait 30 years for sustainable fuels to become standard.

In Europe and in other parts of the world, we already have alternatives available now which allow us to travel with far lower emissions than flying. Particularly notable are high speed and overnight rail, which emit 70 to 90% less Co2 than a comparable flight.

The easiest way to reduce our aviation emissions immediately is to fly less. This is an undeniable fact, but one which is inconvenient to admit for those who rely on aviation for their income.

What can individuals and organisations do?

Choosing to fly less and travel sustainably wherever you can is one of the most significant single actions that you can take – not only to reduce your emissions, but also to promote and inspire climate action in others too.

73% of flights taken in the UK are for leisure/holidays – so that means that the majority of us are flying mostly by choice, rather than as a necessity for work or to visit friends and relatives. Simply by making a different choice for some or all of these trips, frequent flyers could lower our annual emissions by 5-10%.

The best part? We can do so without missing out on incredible travel experiences. Doesn’t it feel like a no brainer? Just imagine what we could achieve if we convinced governments to prioritise low-carbon transport for business and industry too.

How is No Fly Travel Club trying to help?

We understand the common reasons people choose to fly instead of travel overland. These include lack of information, confusing booking systems, high perceived cost and lack of transparency around rail fares compared to airline tickets.

We understand these valid concerns, and we believe that as a business we need to address them. That’s why we’re using our years of experience in rail and sustainable travel to provide accessible options which allow travellers to make truly responsible choices.

Our carefully curated flight-free trips are designed to be inspiring, thoughtful and luxurious – but also affordable and straightforward. Reduce your flying – and inspire your friends to do the same – without missing out on the joy and relaxation of travelling.

Fancy giving it a try? Take a look at our trips here to see what we mean, or learn more about becoming a member here.

Going Beyond Individual Action

A the same time as helping you make these key decisions, we also recognise that this issue goes beyond individual choices. That is why we continue to talk to as many people within the travel industry as possible to promote our message, and to support campaign groups promoting the climate change and low-carbon transport agendas at government and international level. We can’t promise to be perfect, but we can promise to keep doing better.