The CEO of the Netherlands’ national airline, KLM, has published an open letter compelling people to ‘fly responsibly’. With climate change an urgent problem, ‘flight shaming’ is compelling travellers to rethink hopping on a plane for a weekend city break or flying long-haul for a business meeting. Jenny Southan reports

According to IATA, the aviation industry is responsible for 2 to 3 per cent of global manmade CO2 emissions. However, as air travel increases – by 2036, the number of flights a year are expected to double to almost 7.8 billion – so too will the pollution.

Hearing the CEO of an airline encouraging people not to fly may sound paradoxical but there’s more to it than that. If you have to fly, fly carbon neutral, for example, by paying for carbon offsetting with KLM’s CO2ZERO compensation service.

KLM says: “If you choose our CO2ZERO service, you contribute to the ‘CO2OL Tropical Mix’ reforestation initiative in Panama where so far at least 3.5 million trees have been planted.​ You can select CO2ZERO when you book your flight and manage this option via MyTrip on KLM’s website or the KLM app.”

Pieter Elbers, CEO of KLM, wrote in his letter: “When we started 100 years ago, our major concern was your safety. Little did we know about the impact we would have on the environment. Today we know aviation comes with another big responsibility – to make sure our children have a planet to explore as well.”

Pointing out that for the past 14 years KLM has been at the top of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, he goes on to invite other airlines to use KLM’s carbon offsetting and biofuel programmes, as well as encouraging consumers to “make responsible decisions about flying”.

KLM realises that making flying sustainable needs to be a key priority and is setting an example for others. A video published as part of its new “Fly Responsibly” campaign says: “We’re working night and day to improve flying for the next 100 years. But we can only make it possible together.

“That’s why we want to ask you something. To fly more responsibly. Do you always have to meet face-to-face? Could you take the train instead? Could you contribute by compensating some of your C02 emissions or packing light? We, the first commercial airline in the world, today kindly invite you, all travellers and the aviation industry, to join forces.”

According to 2017 rankings from the International Council on Clean Transportation (PDF), KLM is the third-most fuel efficient airline flying transatlantic. In first place is Norwegian and in second place Swiss.

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