lifestyle transport

Why wing it? Addressing the tragedy of default flying

This week I came across a claim that would have made me spit my drink in cartoon fashion should I have been imbibing one at the time: half of all flights taken by British men aged 20-45 are for stag dos. For women, it’s a third.

That’s a finding from a survey by the sustainability agency Hubbub, and it’s so extraordinary that I hardly know where to start.* We’re destroying the atmosphere for this? We’re wrecking the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people for a rowdy night out?

From an individual point of view, flying is pretty much the most damaging thing we can do to the climate, alongside the number of children you choose to have and the amount of meat you eat. So we really should leave flying for things that matter – visiting family abroad, or once in a lifetime adventures.

Friends matter too of course, and people want to do something special for a wedding, but the craziest thing is that most people don’t actually want to fly anywhere on a stag do. You can hold one anywhere, and flying adds to the cost. Three out of five polled by Hubbub said flying made it too expensive, and that they resented having to take the extra time off for travel. 60% said they preferred stag or hen dos in Britain, and three quarters agreed that there are plenty of good places to go without flying.

The problem is clearly a cultural one. It has become normal to fly on a stag do, even though half the attendees would rather not bother. Presumably we do it now because it’s expected, and not because it’s truly worth doing. It’s become the default option. (Though this was news to me – I guess I don’t those sorts of friends.) Popular destinations include Prague, Riga and Barcelona, but specialist stag do operators advertise them as far way as Las Vegas, Dubai or Bangkok.

I find this deeply tragic, but it’s also an interesting opportunity, and Hubbub have created a campaign called Why Wing it? It presents the problem of flying from a completely different perspective, one that could cut through to the right audiences in ways that a worthy environmental message never could.

So don’t share this blog post. Share this video instead. Make a quiet pledge to yourself, if you do have those sorts of friends, that you’ll talk them out of flying on their stag dos. Switching a stag do from Barcelona to Brighton would cut its carbon footprint by 98% according to Hubbub, and that could be the most environmentally significant conversation you have all year. And if you’re a best man, act with confidence and book somewhere more local, safe in the knowledge that most of your friends are quietly thanking your for it.

* I realise there has been some ‘debunking’ of this stat on Radio 4 and on Twitter, but it is from a self-reported survey. The methodology is here. I don’t know how correct Hubbub’s claim is, but it is quite clear that the person doing the ‘debunking’ on Twitter didn’t bother to look up the methodology before attacking it, and so their critique is definitely wrong.

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