Growing concerns about climate change and increasing negativity towards ‘excessive’ air travel could lead to frequent flyers becoming stigmatised by society. That’s the finding from a new study by Dr Scott Cohen from Bournemouth University and colleagues from the University of Otago in New Zealand which examines how tourists are affected by the climate consequences of air travel.
The research looks at how the notion that excessive air travel, or ‘binge flying’, could constitute a new behavioural addiction that could be viewed as dysfunctional by society.
The School of Tourism’s Dr Cohen, with colleagues Professor James Higham and Christina Cavaliere from the University of Otago, interviewed several frequent flyers from both the UK and Norway about their opinions on climate change and its causes. They discovered increasing feelings of guilt, suppression and denial of air travel’s climatic impact in the interviewees’ answers regarding their own flying habits, ironically coupled with concern over flying’s climate impacts. Such growing negativity towards frequent holiday flying, especially through the use of low-cost airlines for short trips abroad, thus appears to show that consumers are developing a ‘carbon conscience’.
“Therefore, if current social norms concerning acceptable levels of tourist air travel are being challenged, frequent air travel could join smoking, gambling and video games, as behavioural addictions – therefore leading to a ‘social marginalisation’ of air travel. Which then poses questions about how the tourism industry will be transformed” says Dr Cohen.