Fight or Flight? Examining People's Perception of Leisure Air Travel Legitimacy

Klara Wieslander

Student thesis: Master thesis


Leisure air travel has recently reached a “taken for granted-ness” by a wider audience, but due to the climate crisis it has now become a practice that some people have started to re-evaluate its legitimacy. Some people are even ashamed to fly, they experience “fly-shame” while others change behavior and reduce or boycott flying. The purpose of this study is to understand why some people perceive leisure air travel as less legitimate. It takes an individual level approach to legitimacy evaluation and applies it to the context of leisure air travel. The study uses a nomological network based on existing social psychology and institutional theories were constructs and their relationships are tested based on hypotheses. Accordingly, the study uses a deductive approach and a quantitative research method. The nomological network consists of four antecedents (Openness to change, Perceived Consumer Effectiveness, Environmental Concern, and Validity Cues), six mediation dimensions (moral, instrumental, relational, social, environmental and overall legitimacy) and four outcomes (boycott intention, actually reduced flying, shame and word of mouth). The data was collected by a survey to a sample of Swedish citizens and analyzed using Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM). The results show that only two of the mediation dimensions; moral and social legitimacy correlated with the overall evaluation of leisure air travel legitimacy. The result implies the importance for managers to evaluate which dimensions that do impact the overall legitimacy of an entity in a specific context. The study also found that the antecedent validity cues (influence by friends and family) correlate with the most mediating dimension, which highlights the critical role of including external influences when evaluate leisure air travel legitimacy. Further, the relationship between the overall evaluation of legitimacy and the behavioral outcomes were found to be strongly correlated, indicating that the individual’s perception actually will affect behavior. This proves that an individual's legitimacy evaluation is essential for airline industry managers as well as NGO’s and governments to consider and can be used to improve or reduce the legitimacy assessment. Ergo, some people perceive leisure air travel as less legitimate because they think it is not morally and socially legitimate.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages105
SupervisorsFlorian Kock