Air travel accounts for a major share of individual greenhouse gas emissions, particularly for people in high-income countries. Until recently, few have reduced flying because of climate concerns, but currently, a movement for staying on the ground is rising. Sweden has been a focal point for this movement, particularly during 2018–2019, when a flight tax was introduced, and air travel reduction was intensely discussed in the media. We performed semi-structured interviews with Swedish residents, focusing primarily on individuals who have reduced flying because of its climate impact. We explore how such individual transformation of air travel behavior comes about, and the phases and components of this process. Applying a framework of sustainability transformation, we identify incentives and barriers in personal and political spheres. We show that internalized knowledge about climate change and the impact of air travel is crucial for instigating behavioral change. Awareness evokes negative emotions leading to a personal tipping point where a decision to reduce or quit flying is made. However, the process is often counteracted by both personal values and political structures promoting air travel. Even individuals with a strong drive to reduce flying feel trapped in social practices, norms and infrastructures. Hence, we argue that personal and political spheres interact complexly and to reduce flying at larger scales, interventions are needed across spheres, e.g., change of norms, effective policy instruments and better alternatives to air travel.
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