Number of flight passengers in Germany increases despite ‘Fridays for Future’

Despite the growing Fridays for Future climate protest movement, which calls for less plane travel, the number of flight passengers in Germany is increasing.

Number of flight passengers in Germany increases despite 'Fridays for Future'
A flight departing from Berlin's Tegel Airport in August. Photo: DPA

The number of flight passengers since the start of “Fridays for Future” – kicked off by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg in August 2018 – has gone up over the past year, according to the latest air traffic data from Germany’s Federal Statistics Office.

READ ALSO: Over 200 'Fridays for Future' demos taking place in Germany

In the 12 months between August 2018 and July 2019, there were a total of 125.1 flight passengers, according to the data analyzed by RP Online on Wednesday. That’s up from a total of 119.4 passengers between July 2017 and July 2018.

In April of this year, there were a total of 10.7 million flight passengers, up from 9.8 million in 2018. 

The Swedish concept of “Flygskam”, or flight shame, has still taken a hold of many people across the globe.

One in five Americans and Europeans say that are taking at least one flight fewer per year due to climate change concerns, according to a study by 6,000 Americans and Europeans by Swiss Bank UBS.

Nonetheless, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an umbrella organization of airlines, predicted in September that the number of air travelers will double in two decades.

Cutting costs

Some say that the reason people in Germany have yet to cut back massively on plane travel is the low costs of tickets, especially for domestic and intercontinental flights.

The country currently has an aviation tax, which has been levied since 2011 at rates currently ranging from €7.38 to €41.49, but is still much lower than other EU countries such as neighbouring France. 

Several politicians, including German Environment Minister Svenja Schultze, have said that plane flights departing from Germany are therefore “too cheap”, criticizing that domestic flight tickets often cost less than train tickets.

Germany’s Green Party earlier this year proposed a plan to make train travel in the Bundesrepublik so attractive – and affordable – that domestic flights become ‘obsolete’.

READ ALSO: Trains instead of planes: Could domestic flights in Germany really become ‘obsolete’?

The Christian Socialists (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats, have also proposed a “penalty tax” for flights costing less than €50 in an attempt to cut carbon emissions.

Their ideas could soon achieve more wide-reaching support. On Wednesday morning, Germany’s Federal Cabinet adopted its controversial climate packet, through which it aims to reduce greenhouse gasses by 55 percent compared to what they were in 1990. 

The law stipulates that individual ministries – including Germany’s Transportation Ministry, which have long resisted specific targets for air travel – are responsible for achieving climate protection targets.

READ ALSO: Could cheap flights in Germany receive a 'penalty tax'?


Air traffic data – (die) Luftverkehrdaten

flight passengers – (die) Flugpassagiere

increase/rise – (der) Anstieg

propose – vorschlagen

Umbrella organization – (der) Dachverband

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France gets help from EU neighbours as wildfires rage

Firefighting teams and equipment from six EU nations started to arrive in France on Thursday to help battle a spate of wildfires, including a fierce blaze in the parched southwest that has forced thousands to evacuate.

France gets help from EU neighbours as wildfires rage

Most of the country is sweltering under a summer heatwave compounded by a record drought – conditions most experts say will occur more often as a result of rapid climate change.

“We must continue, more than ever, our fight against climate disruption and … adapt to this climate disruption,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said after arriving at a fire command post in the village of Hostens, south of Bordeaux.

The European Commission said four firefighting planes would be sent to France from Greece and Sweden, as well as teams from Austria, Germany, Poland and Romania.

“Our partners are coming to France’s aid against the fires. Thank you to them. European solidarity is at work!” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

“Across the country over 10,000 firefighters and security forces are mobilised against the flames… These soldiers of fire are our heroes,” he said.

In total, 361 foreign firefighters were  dispatched to assist their 1,100 French colleagues deployed in the worst-hit part of the French southwest.

A first contingent of 65 German firefighters, followed by their 24 vehicles, arrived Thursday afternoon and were to go into action at dawn Friday, officials said.

Among eight major fires currently raging, the biggest is the Landiras fire in the southwest Gironde department, whose forests and beaches draw huge tourist crowds each summer.

It had already burned 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) in July – the driest month seen in France since 1961 – before being contained, but it continued to smoulder in the region’s tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil.

Since flaring up again Tuesday, which officials suspect may have been caused by arson, it has burned 7,400 hectares, destroyed or damaged 17 homes, and forced 10,000 people to quit their homes, said Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Mendousse of the Gironde fire and rescue service.

Borne said nine firefighting planes are already dumping water on the blaze, with two more to be in service by the weekend.

“We battled all night to stop the fire from spreading, notably to defend the village of Belin-Beliet,” Mendousse told journalists in Hostens.

On several houses nearby, people hung out white sheets saying: “Thank you for saving our homes” and other messages of support for the weary fire battalions.

“You’d think we’re in California, it’s gigantic… And they’re used to forest fires here but we’re being overwhelmed on all sides — nobody could have expected this,” Remy Lahlay, a firefighter deployed near Hostens in the Landes de Gascogne natural park, told AFP.

With temperatures in the region hitting nearly 40C on Thursday and forecast to stay high until at least Sunday, “there is a very serious risk of new outbreaks” for the Landiras fire, the prefecture of the Gironde department said.

Acrid smoke has spread across much of the southwestern Atlantic coast and its beaches that draw huge crowds of tourists each summer, with the regional ARS health agency “strongly” urging people to wear protective face masks.

The smoke also forced the closing of the A63 motorway, a major artery toward Spain, between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

The government has urged employers to allow leaves of absence for volunteer firefighters to help fight the fires.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, more than 1,500 firefighters were also battling a fire that has raged for days in the mountainous Serra da Estrela natural park in the centre of the country.

It has already burned 10,000 hectares, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).