As consumers become more aware of the environmental impacts traveling has, it’s important to know which airlines are taking steps to improve their (and their customers) carbon emissions.
Travel with the greenest airlines
What makes an airline eco-friendly?
Traveling by air is still an overall environmental challenge, however in comparison the average feul consumption per transported passenger by an airplane is roughly 4 liters per 100km, and as airlines make effots to improve their fuel consumption us to ensure they meet internally and industry targets, hopefully this figure will improve over the coming years. Here are a few things airlines can do to strive to become more eco-friendly:
Not taking potential innovations such as electric air travel into account
Older fleets and aircrafts will consume more kerosene amongst other materials. Newer models not only bring technological advancements, but improvements in design and advancements in becoming more environmentally friendly. For example newer aircraft have winglets which were added to the end of wings to reduce drag and fuel consumption.
Utilizing better materials
The increase in use of environmental friendly materials not only applies to the aircraft itself, such as installing carbon fiber seats, but also other materials used, such as magazines, beverage carts, in-flight phones, etc. If all elements of flying were rethought, eg: lighter beverage carts, then this would significantly contribute to the overall reduction of CO2.
On board meals
This is a mix of materials (many plastics are still used along with other one use materials), and what is served. However, many airlines are expanding their in flight meal offerings to include vegan and/or vegetarian options. This is due to consumer demand changing, yet the positive impact of this also leads to more environmental friendly flying by reducing overall meat consumption. So what if more airlines offered vegetables and sustainable food?
Flying use to encompass everthing, that is until low-cost carriers came into play. However, albeit it all, low-cost no frills airlines lead the way to being more environmentally friendly as they “unbundle” fares. Passengers now have the choice of what to purchase and what to leave out impacting the environment – eg: carry-on luggage reduces overall weight vs. checked-in baggage. So what if more airlines offered customizations?
THE MOST ECO-FRIENDLY AIRLINES FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS TRAVELLERS
Alaska Airlines shows great transparency with regards to their CO2 emissons and other steps they are taking to improve their impact on the environment. They are always looking for innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of their services, and steps that they have taken so far have included going strawless, composting grounds from coffee served in flight, and using avionics to use the ‘Greener Skies’ approaches in order to cut fuel consumption.
The airline has also formed a partnership with the Port of Seattle and Boeing with the aim to power all flights by all airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with sustainable biofuel.
Delta is taking steps to improve their environmental impact – largely with regards to their fuel emissions, but also with regards to water waste, hazardous waste, and implementation of a recycling program.
The airline invests in carbon offsets – in 2017 alone they invested $2.5 million, and they have developed a proprietary flight weather app to allow pilots to better predict where they can burn less fuel. On Earth Day 2019, Delta made clear its intentions to continue to invest in carbon offset by buying around 50,00 carbon offsets. This was estimated to offset the emissions generated by flying over 300,000 people.
Delta is also in the process of removing all single-use plastic items from their flights. This includes items such as stir sticks, wrappers and utensils. In total, Delta is estimated to remove over 300,000 pounds in plastic waste each year.
American Airlines has committed to invest in modern, more efficient aircraft – whether this be investing in brand new aircraft, or upgrading planes not yet ready for retirement.
The airline looks for innovative ways to reduce costs and emissions, including installation of winglets to wing ends, shaving weight on aircraft, paperless cabins, and implementation of one-engine taxiing.
Since 2008, KLM’s climate action plan has ensured that the airline is more sustainable in the sky and on the ground.
Responsable waste management, material recycling and measures to decrease noise pollution are just a few ways in which KLM has made steps to improve the environmental impact of the company.
Jetblue is committed to improving the airline’s environmental impact, and is proud to be transparent with regards to the steps taken in doing so.
The airline committed to moving away from using diesel and petrol for ground based electric equipment as bag tugs and belt loaders. In 2013, Jetblue introduced an onboard recycling program, alongside a partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts, Jamba Juice and Royal Waste Services to compost food waste at JFK Airport’s Terminal 5.
Jetblue is also committed to the company’s environmental impact beyond the airport. The Jetblue T5 Farm at New York’s JFK Airport is the world’s first blue potato farm based at an airport, and the T5 Rooftop is the only post-security outdoor space at a New York airport. The airline has also used smart building techniques at their Terminal 5 home at JFK Airport, and their Long Island City Support Centre.
United Airlines is committed to a number of processes to ensure that the environmental impact of the company is as low as possible. This includes fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, using sustainable products, investing in sustainable fuel sources, and creating and maintaining partnerships to promote sustainability and protect the environment. In 2018, it announced that it would reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2050.
In June 2019, United launched a ‘flight for the planet’, which at the time, was billed as the most eco-friendly flight of all time. The carbon-neutral flight used sustainable biofuel and eliminated all cabin waste. Statistics from this flight included 3.3% of fuel was saved compared to a typical flight, 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide was offset, which made up for the aircraft’s fuel consumption and also waste was down by about a third. United plans to learn from this flight, and turn these short-term initiatives into widespread policies.
Easyjet is committed to reduction of carbon emissions, and invests in projects to ensure that the environmental impact of the airlne is as minimal as possible. Example projects include new fleet investment, seat-weight reduction due to investment in new lightweight Recaro seats, paperless cockpits, adding ‘sharklet’ wing tips, and the addition of 6 more seats to existing A320 aircraft.
Cathay Pacific endeavors to ‘be the world’s best airline’ and focuses particularly on the following environmental issues: climate change, waste, air quality, noise, water, conservation, and biodiversity.
The Cathay Pacific ‘Fly Greener’ programme gives Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon passengers the opportunity to reduce the carbon dioxide generated from air travel in a simple, credible way. Customers are able to purchase carbon offsets for their journeys, and the airline offers an online carbon offset calculator which allows passengers to work out what their journeys will use, and what they can buy to help to offset this.
Cape Air have the intent to order a number (“double digit”) of Eviation Alice aircraft – an electric, 9 seater aircraft which is built from 95% composite materials, and set to be the first fully electric aircraft to enter commercial service.
Ryanair classes itself as ‘Europe’s greenest, cleanest airline’, and was the first airline to commit to being plastic free by 2023.
The airline’s commitment to sustainability includes the following priorities: offering customers to offset the carbon cost of journeys, investing in new Boeing 737-MAX-200 aircraft, operating only point-to-point routes with industry-leading load factors, conducting operational efficiency, adding winglets to wings, and using single-engine taxiing between the runway and terminal.
British Airways strives to conduct business activities in an environmentally friendly manner, and does this by committing to preventing pollution as much as possible, reducing pollution impact to be as low as possible, protecting the natural environment, reducing carbon emissions per passenger, reducing noise per flight, and minimising wasted through increase of material re-use and recycling.
In June 2019, British Airways revealed its newest eco-friendly feature to the premium economy cabin. Starting 1st July 2019, passengers travelling in the World Traveller Plus cabin will receive new amenity kits made from recycled materials such as plastic bottles.
In August 2019, British Airways announced plans to create a plant that will turn everyday household and commercial waste into jet fuel to be used for its airplanes. The legacy carrier plans to build the plant on a site in Lincolnshire and predicts that it will transform more than 500,00 tonnes of waste into fuel a year.
Loganair is forthcoming as the leading pioneer of electric aircraft. The Scottish regional airline wants to start using electric-powered planes by 2021 for their flights between Westray and Papa Westray in a bid to reach their goal to become carbon neutral.
Loganair are already making themselves more environmentally friendly, with their use of renewable energy produced in Orkney.
The Australian airline Qantas has recently made a pledge to eliminate single-use plastics from all flights by 2020. This is expected to result in 100 million single-use plastics eliminated from flights and lounges by 2020.
Virgin Atlantic’s top environmental policy is concerned with aircraft fuel and reduction of carbon emissions, alongside aircraft waste and noise, combined ground operations, and supply chain work.
Etihad Airways are partnering with the Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center on a project to explore how municipal waste can be converted into jet fuel. One of the aims of the project is to use the final jet fuel on Etihad Airways’ flights. This shows the commitment that the airline has towards cutting-edge environmental advances, and reducing the airline’s dependency on fossil fuels.
In 2018, Xiamen Airlines launched a number of themed flights as part of its #WEINACTION campaign. The themed flights included customised meals, videos, radios and souvenirs that were used to raise awareness for ‘life on land’ and to protect terrestrial biodiversity. Xiamen Airlines continues to operate these themed flights periodically.
Air Canada began reducing the use of single-use plastic on all of its flights in 2019. The airline started by eliminating plastic drink stirrers with wooden drink stirrers, which will get rid of 35 million plastic drink stirrers yearly.
In addition to this, the airline has set itself a goal to reduce landfill waste from its offices and airport lounges by 20% by the end of 2020. Air Canada also invested in a $10 billion CAD fleet modernisation which has helped improve its fuel efficiency by 43% from 1990–2019.
China Airlines offers ‘ECO TRAVEL Carbon Offsetting’ — a service that gives passengers the ability to partake in carbon offsetting and reduce the carbon footprint and emissions during their flight.
ECO TRAVEL Carbon offsetting lets China Airlines passengers track the emissions from their flight and — through UK company ClimateCare — gives them the opportunity to offset the carbon footprint with environmentally friendly carbon reduction projects.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
SAS Scandinavian Airlines have set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 25% from 2005 to 2030. The airline has stated that updating its fleet and using biofuels will be the main two factors in achieving this. In 2018, the airline took in an order of Airbus A320 neo, which has reduced fuel consumption and emissions by roughly 15%. Furthermore, the airline plans to replace the amount of fuel used on all of its domestic flights with sustainable biofuel.
SAS has also invested in a carbon offsetting program which offsets for all business, Youth and EuroBonus passengers, as well as offering all other passengers the same option.
In 2019, SAS announced that it’ll stop selling duty-free items inflight. This will help will reduce the overall weight carried on the aircraft and therefore result in the airline using less-fuel per flight.
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