5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again

"Чтобы жить счастливо, я должен быть в согласии с миром. А это ведь и значит «быть счастливым»." Людвиг Витгенштейн ©
Время на прочтение: 4 минут(ы)

Many dedicated travellers will admit that air travel is their biggest passion, their biggest indulgence – and their biggest ethical blind spot. Even before the coronavirus crisis, it was clear we couldn’t keep on travelling as we had been. No responsible traveller can ignore the impact of air travel on the planet, and if we really care about the world we want to explore, we need to radically overhaul our flying habits.

Today, with the entire travel industry in a state of flux, the one silver lining is the very real opportunity for responsible travellers to rewrite the rule book, and think about what we want air travel to look like when flights resume in the UK. Spoiler: it’s a lot like how it looked in the past….

  • 5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again

    1. Fly further, for longer, less often

    Looking back, the flights we should feel most guilty about are the mid-distance jaunts where we spent just a couple of days in a destination. Or those beach holidays when we flew to Mauritius or Mexico to stay in an all-inclusive hotel when we could easily have gone to Portugal or somewhere much closer. In the future, we’ll all need to adopt a ‘fly further, for longer, less often’ mantra. ‘Further’ doesn’t simply mean geographical distance; this is more about dreaming bigger, thinking beyond a package holiday, and reserving a flight for a trip of a lifetime. This is about saving a flight for an extended trip, perhaps combining work and travel. And this is about only flying a couple of times a year. The air travel of the future is a privilege, not a right.

  • 2. Switch the default travel setting

    Most of us would say we enjoy travelling by train, but we fly when it is cheaper or saves time. This old-world attitude is now in the bin, and air travel can no longer be our default transport option. With some airlines facing bankruptcy and reduced routes looking inevitable, air travel will once again be an expensive privilege, only to be considered when we’ve ruled out other modes of transport.

    Travelling by train or boat means reframing travel as part of the overall experience, factoring it into our holiday time frame and budget. If we’re travelling for work, it means making the case (to ourselves or employers) that we’re more productive on a lengthy train journey than when trying to snatch moments of Wi-Fi in airports and security queues. As more employers embrace flexible working patterns and we transition to a dramatically more location-independent workplace culture, this flexibility will hopefully extend to prioritising rail travel over air whenever possible.

  • 3. Support the airlines you love

    It has never been more important to think long and hard about where we spend our money. As we’re faced with the harsh economic realities of the coronavirus crisis, we’re all changing our spending habits, recognising that it’s worth spending a little bit more money on our groceries in order to support our local store, and only buying records, books and clothes from local businesses we love, even though Amazon might be easier. A similar shift will take place when we consider flights. We’ll only want to support the airlines that are committed to fair practices, treat their staff well and are addressing carbon emissions. Every pound we spend today is a vote for a better (or a worse) future, and we’ll all be willing to spend more to feel good about supporting a reputable airline, rather than funding bad practices. So be prepared to do your research, be vocal about how you want airlines to change, and put your money into airlines making the right choices. This will also mean that airlines have to listen to consumers more, and respond to calls for healthier meal options, fewer queues and smoother boarding procedures.

  • 5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again

    4. Go your own way

    First, the bad news: we’ve been spoiled rotten by the sheer convenience of air travel, so we have some serious adjusting to do in this new landscape. Now, the good: exploring alternative plans and routes makes for a much richer adventure and more authentic experience. And any true travel lover will choose independence, freedom, adventure and authenticity over convenience.

    Sure, it takes organisation to work out the best way to visit a European city by rail (raileurope.co.uk and seat61.com are my go-to sites), but it also opens up potential side trips to stopover cities. Travelling by rail also places you right in the heart of a city as you arrive, so you can choose the hotels and restaurants that suit you, rather than being funnelled into dreary airport hotels and humdrum chain restaurants. So it’s a myth that not flying gives you fewer travel options. Quite the opposite: finding alternatives to air travel opens up a whole world of possibilities.

  • 5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again

    5. Make every flight count

    Air travel facilitates a lot of wonderful things: staying connected to family and friends; the spread of ideas via academics and experts; aid work; the enrichment of culture through touring bands, orchestras, artists and writers; fair-trade businesses that bring livelihoods to communities; diplomatic relations; conservation work; the tourism industry, upon which scores of economies are reliant. Air travel is one of life’s greatest pleasures and privileges, with the power to enrich lives, transform local economies and communities, and build bonds between nations.

    But in the past two decades, owing partly to the boom in budget airlines and cheap package travel, we have become casual about flying. Looking ahead, before we book a flight we’ll need to ask ourselves a number of questions: who will benefit from this trip? Is there an overland or low-carbon alternative? Can I stay longer and achieve more (professionally or personally) from this journey? In a nutshell: how can we extract more bang for our bucks from every flight we take?

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