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The boom of the plane industry created a new era of air passengers. As sky-riding has a high environmental cost, we couldn’t help but wonder whether the modern traveller could indulge into a no-fly future

Words: Aleksandra Georgieva

Photography: Felipe Pires, Dave Herring

24 October 2020

Weather the modern traveller flies for business or pleasure, getting on a plane has little to do with the journey – it is all about arriving at the next destination. We looked into the history of flying and some staggering statistics to provide you with the facts you need to make up your own mind of whether or not humanity can ever face a no-fly future.


Some travel enthusiasts may know of 17 December 1903. On that historic date, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright brothers took on the first ever flight in the history of mankind. Moving at 6,8mph the first prototype of a plane managed to fly for twelve seconds covering a distance of 120ft. This 1903 event may have raised eyebrows, but it opened the door to a future of complex powered aircrafts, taking over the skies a little over a century later.


Aircrafts would evolve for the next 116 years, playing a vital role on the main stage of historic events that changed the course of modern life. From journeys to the Moon, the atomic bombers, the Spitfires during the Second World War, and 1,354 miles an hour journeys on Concorde between the Seventies and 2003, planes helped shape the world as we know it today. The airline industry not only boomed over the 1990s, but it created perfect conditions for a reality of mass air tourism.


Between 1903 and today, people have turned from enthusiastic about an experimental take-off to flying addicts. Over half of the 1.4 billion tourists crossing international borders last year, were plane passengers. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) also reports that 2018 saw around 38 million departure flights with a total of over 4.3 billion travellers. This number is prognosed to rise to eight billion people flying annually by 2037, which is a staggering statistic, considering today’s worldwide population reaches 7.53 billion people.

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The rise of the internet made air travelling easier than ever before. Airline corporations have grown into a massive international business that employs millions of people, making flights relatively affordable. And while those with time and money to spare may take full advantage of the quickest available way of transportation, environmentalists conclude that flights create 859 million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere annually. This translates to 5% of all human-related and 12% of all transport-introduced CO2 emissions. Yet, this is only part of the damage planes create on the environment. It is believed that the white trails left in the sky by aircrafts are a greater contributor to global warming that planes’ greenhouse gas emissions.


In response to environmental concerns more and more travellers have reportedly worrying about their environmental footprint. Whether contributing to eco-friendly schemes such as tree planting or moving towards no-fly holidays, consumers hold great power in their hands. The passenger concerns inspired airlines to consider greener aircrafts. The so called ‘hybrid’ planes are expected to use both electricity and conventional fuel. Yet, electric planes are decades away from turning commercial and flying seems less glamorous than ever.


Perhaps there is a possibility of a no-fly future. But apart from environmental concerns and carbon footprint guilt, there are many more factors to consider before booking a flight. Whether you are considering a holiday or a business trio, consider the opportunities land travel has to offer. Think about keeping your air miles and instead trading the airport rush and security checks for a relaxing bus or train ride through the countryside of some of the world’s most and less explored destinations.




NOMADSofORIGIN is an independent annual publication with a focus on sustainable travelling and global cultural values. Each issue features interviews, engaging articles and photo guides, which take our nomadic readers through different destinations and introduce them to local people's perspectives.



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