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Flight Free 2020: Climate action group never wanted to succeed this way

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In February 2019, the growth of the air travel industry seemed boundless.

Worldwide passenger air travel had increased 50 per cent in just six years, and large aircraft manufacturers, like Airbus and Boeing, could barely keep up with demand.

Air travel contributed about 2 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and showed no signs of levelling off.

So, a group of climate-conscious activists in Britain set-up Flight Free UK, the British arm of a Swedish movement that showed moderate success in getting Swedes to stay on the ground.

Flight Free UK wanted to 100,000 Britons to pledge not to fly in 2020. They say about 6,000 signed up by the end of 2019, among 25,000 worldwide, including some in Canada.

Then came COVID-19, and now the air travel industry is on its knees.

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) estimates 2020 will see a drop in passenger air travel of between 35 and 65 per cent compared with 2019.

Millions of travellers will be going flight-free this year — whether they like it or not.

“Lots of people say, ‘Wow! Flight Free 2020 is going really well!’” said Flight Free UK Director Anna Hughes.

Hughes says this is not how she wanted to see a change in the way we travel.

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“This is an action that people have been forced to take. So, obviously, the whole purpose of our campaign is that we want people to choose not to fly,” said Hughes, sitting beside her houseboat in east London.

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