• Based on official statistics for business jet use into and out of Zurich and St Gallen airports, we estimate 14% less private jet use in 2019 compared to 2018
  • Taking into account the average number of flights expected at both airports during the year, this equates to around 270 ‘movements’ or a maximum of 135 there-and-back flights
  • The Forum offsets all carbon emissions related to air travel to and from our Annual Meeting

It’s a question that always gets asked. And so it should. From an environmental perspective, taking a private jet is the worst way to travel to Davos, where the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting takes place.

It’s also a complicated question, as the data is not always easy to determine. For example, air traffic authorities use a metric called ATM, or Air Traffic Movements. A normal flight would be two ATMs, however during busy times, when parking is not available at the airport, planes are required to take off again and park at another airstrip nearby. This adds a further two legs to the journey, meaning that one trip to Davos could be divided into four separate trips.

Now this is clear, let’s look at what we know about this year’s movements.

In 2018, Zurich airport saw a total of 463 movements of fixed-wing aircraft (flachenflugzeuge in the table below) between Sunday 21 and Tuesday 23 January. In 2019, the figure for Sunday 20 and Tuesday 22 was 350 flights. This equates to a 32% reduction on traffic year on year.

Now let’s look at St. Gallen-Alltenrhein, there were 93 ATMs. This year, the figure is slightly higher at 136, mainly because we have been encouraging participants to use this airport to reduce congestion on the roads. This is a 46% increase. However, if we calculate the numbers from Zurich, which still receives much more traffic, the overall difference year on year is -14%

This gets us closer to determining how many private jets are being used for Davos participants. Considering that the average daily number of movements throughout the year in Zurich is 55, we could assume that there have been in the region of 185 extra flights over the three days of the conference. A conservative estimate – based on each flight requiring only two ATMs (which is unlikely) – would give us a total 93 extra trips.

St Gallen, a smaller airport than Zurich, gets an average of 120 private flights per week, or 17 per day, during the year. This would suggest that 51 of the 136 movements into and out of there in the past three days were unrelated to Davos and therefore that 85 movements, or 43 extra there-and-back trips, involved Davos participants.

These numbers refer only to the first three days of the meeting. However they are a far cry from the 1,500 flights mentioned in some news reports, which appear to be based on marketing literature from a commercial operator.

This year’s drop in private air traffic is a sign that participants are taking the environmental impact of their travel more seriously.

It’s certainly something we have been encouraging. We have been offering incentives to participants to use public transport for some years. We also ask that they share planes if they have to use them; something that has been gaining popularity in recent years.

2018 was the year when the Forum’s Annual Meeting was certified to ISO 20121 for sustainable event management, following independent audits. Since then, the Forum must demonstrate continual efforts in the field. This is part of the Forum’s wider sustainability strategy 2021.

For those who do travel to Davos by plane, we fully offset the flights – private or otherwise.