In 2006 British writer George Monbiot first wrote Flying is Dying, about any responsible environmentalist concerned about their carbon footprint had to give it up. He didn't get a lot of traction then, writing:
If we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop traveling at the kind of speeds that planes permit.This is now broadly understood by almost everyone I meet. But it has had no impact whatever on their behavior. When I challenge my friends about their planned weekend in Rome or their holiday in Florida, they respond with a strange, distant smile and avert their eyes. They just want to enjoy themselves. Who am I to spoil their fun? The moral dissonance is deafening.
Now, new airports are being proposed all over the UK. They are building spaceports in the USA. Boeing and Airbus and Bombardier are rolling in orders. In the middle of airport planning battles in Britain, Monbiot looks at whether flying is actually dying, and suggests that it still is. Business travel is down by 25% since 2000.
Business travel is treated by many companies as a luxury, which is quickly cut when conditions tighten. And much of the perceived need to travel has been superceded by new technologies. Internet conferencing is cheaper, quicker and less taxing for workers.
Actually, so is leisure travel.
Even leisure flights are now falling far short of the forecasts successive governments have made. In 2012, 8% fewer people flew than in 2007(5): the recovery in the number of passengers since the economic crisis began has been very slow. Could it be because the underlying growth in demand is grinding to a halt?
You would certainly never know it from the architectural renderings. More at Monbiot.