Taylor Swift’s private jet usage begins to alienate fans on account of ethical concerns surrounding luxury travel

Taylor Swift has cultivated a dedicated base of fans, released music that resonates with diverse audiences around the world, and has been a catalyst for change within the music industry. More than half of all adults surveyed in the U.S. reported that they listen to the pop and country music superstar. Swift’s influence and cultural significance cannot be overstated.

Taylor Swift has also consistently used her wealth and influence to make a positive impact on the lives of her fans, workers and peers. Some examples include paying off fans’ student loans, donating to sick families and individuals suffering through economic hardships, providing significant financial support for local food pantries, lending aid following natural disasters and giving massive bonuses for her truck drivers. Swift is also widely credited for encouraging approximately 35,000 Americans to register to vote in a single day following a post made to Instagram by the artist. As such, fans look to Swift not only as an artist but also as a role model.

However, in 2024, an increasing amount of attention has been focused on whether or not Taylor Swift’s private jet usage is ethical, dividing and conflicting fans. The controversy stems from the environmental impact of private jets, which contribute to climate change through the release of CO2 emissions. While all flights are collectively responsible for the release of more carbon emissions than any other form of travel, flights in private jets are five to 15 times more polluting than flights taken via commercial aircraft. A private jet is capable of emitting two tons of CO2 in just an hour. For context, the average person emits about 16 tons of CO2 in an entire year, equivalent to just eight hours in a private jet by the previous figure. 

In 2023, Taylor Swift utilized her two private jets, a Dassault 7X and a Dassault 900, to keep up with a demanding tour schedule. Jack Sweeney, a college student at the University of Central Florida who previously angered Elon Musk by tracking his private jet usage, began releasing similar information regarding Taylor Swift on the popular social media platform, X (previously known as Twitter). Elon Musk has since banned Sweeny’s account for exposing what Musk referred to as “assassination coordinates.”

According to the data collected from Sweeny’s private jet tracker, Taylor Swift flew approximately 178,000 miles in 2023, resulting in an estimated 1,200 tons of CO2 emissions. This included a 34-minute flight from Hollywood to Las Vegas and what Sweeney suggests are likely “maintenance flights” such as one 8-minute flight from Missouri to Illinois that Google Maps estimates would take 21 minutes by car. Swift’s representatives have noted that the artist is likely not in the aircraft during the shorter flights that have been a point of mockery on social media platforms. Representatives have also noted that at least one of the jets is regularly loaned out to other individuals.

(Map displaying Taylor Swift’s flights sourced by Daily Mail)

Taylor Swift’s legal team has since threatened legal action against the UCF student, stating that they would have no choice but to pursue “any and all legal remedies” if this were to continue. Sweeny received a cease and desist letter in which Swift’s attorney, Katie Wright Morrone, claimed that his behavior was “threatening” and could only be attributed to intent to “stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control.” Further, Morrone argued that there was “no legitimate interest in or public need for this information.” Sweeny’s attorneys maintain that the student has done nothing unlawful, and Sweeny stated that he believes in the importance of transparency and public information.

In compiling my research, I decided to poll students at William Jewell College to learn how Taylor Swift’s private jet usage impacts their perception of the artist. Of the 34 students who completed my anonymous survey, 76.5% answered that they view Taylor Swift in a more negative light because of her private jet usage. Additionally, 32.4% of students answered that they felt less inclined to listen to Swift’s music, and 47.1% answered that they were less likely to purchase merchandise and concert tickets from the artist.

The remaining percentages  (23.5%, 67.6%, and 47.1% retrospectively) consist of students who stated Taylor Swift’s private jet usage did not change their perception of the artist one way or another for reasons such as little interest to begin with or an already negative perception. Also included are students who were unbothered by the private jet usage altogether. In the survey, no student stated that they viewed Taylor Swift in a more positive light after learning about her private jet usage. Likewise, no student stated that they would be more likely to listen to her music, purchase merchandise or attend her concerts after learning of her private jet usage. 

When interviewed directly on potential solutions, students suggested a variety of options to explore. Proposals ranged from systemic approaches such as higher taxes on luxury aircraft, investing in renewable energy and exploring net zero carbon solutions, to more direct approaches such as decreasing her entourage on flights by hiring local artists, minimizing usage by planning geographically efficient tours, and reducing usage altogether, especially when traveling locally for tour dates within the same region. 

While some suggested that traveling first class would be sufficient or that no change is necessary at this time, many who expressed concern suggested that private travel itself is not the issue and is a reasonable choice on account of the safety risks celebrities face. However, students highlighted factors such as abuse of privilege, perceived carelessness and a general lack of transparency as reasons for their frustration. Swift’s use of her private jet to attend the Super Bowl was cited as a primary example regarding abuse of privilege and perceived carelessness. 

One of Swift’s two luxury aircraft, her Dassault 900, appears to have been sold or transferred as of Jan. 30, 2024, according to Business Insider. Taylor Swift’s team has since continued to do damage control by releasing statements regarding her private jets. As of the time of this writing, no direct statements have been made by the artist herself based on the information available to The Hilltop Monitor. 

Taylor Swift has an overwhelmingly positive track record with appeasing fans and using yielding power to help spread positive change. Currently, Swift faces the challenging task of regaining support by finding innovative solutions to an important matter that impacts everyone she shares the planet with. A commitment to sustainability would provide a chance to regain trust amongst fans and act as an example for public figures around the world.

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