Sustainability is a huge topic at the moment and rightly so. With ambassadors like Greta Thunberg leading the fight for a greener planet, companies are having to build eco-friendly initiatives into their practices in order to protect the planet, avoid boycotts and keep the dreaded ‘cancelled’ label away.
One of the industries most in the spotlight and struggling to meet the demand for radical, sustainable change is the airline industry. While the prospect of air travel having little to no environmental impact seems a long way away, if possible at all, some airlines are trying to reduce their footprint on the planet where they can.
Here, we dive into the sustainability commitments that airlines are making to become more eco-friendly. We explore their current initiatives, the impact they have and what plans, if any, they have to become the sustainable airlines of the future.
British Airways have announced that from January 2020, they are striving to become the first UK airline to reduce carbon emissions on domestic flights. How? By offsetting these emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects around the world from reforestation to rainforest protection. As well as this, they are investing just over £20 billion in replacing its aircraft with more environmentally friendly and efficient models.
A step in the right direction, they want to conduct all of their current and future activities in a way that complies with environmental legislation, protects the world around us and prevents unnecessary pollution.
This year, BA revealed two exciting new features that paved the way for a more sustainable future – an eco-friendly amenity kit within their World Traveller Plus Cabin and plans to create a plant that will transform commercial and residential waste into jet fuel which can be used within its aircraft.
Alongside this and investing in new aircraft, there are other courses of action that they are promising in the future – including that they want to decrease the amount of noise that’s produced per flight and improve air quality.
For the latter, they have several plans in place. From adjusting their take-off and landing procedures to minimise the amount of emissions that the aircraft produces to investing in efficient ground vehicles that replace the current diesel tugs which help to reduce their carbon footprint.
Likewise, Qantas is aiming to be the leading airline that’s committed to airline sustainability. Since 2007, they have been implementing several environmental strategies so that they could ‘fly greener’.
Resetting their goals in 2012, by 2020/2021 they aim to reduce their energy consumption by 20%, cut net emissions by 50% and eliminate 75% of the waste that they produce. An announcement which they have made recently regarding the latter pledge was to eliminate single-use plastics within all of their flights by the end of next year.
Earlier in 2019, they began to implement this pledge by substituting an average of 1,000 single-use plastic items within a domestic flight from Sydney to Adelaide. Alongside this, they encouraged passengers on the flight to use electronic boarding passes to cut the amount of paper used.
Future initiatives that they have included within their ‘commitment to environmental sustainability pledge’ is to reduce their fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and improve their overall efficiency by introducing aircraft weight reduction initiatives, use GPS-based navigation and invest in a more efficient fleet of aircraft, including a Boeing 787 and Airbus A380.
Similarly to Qantas, it was Hi Fly’s mission this year to introduce single-use-plastic-free flights. Achieving this at the start of the year, they are also striving to become fully plastic-free by 2020. But that’s not the only eco-friendly movement that they are making.
Within their sustainability pledge, in the next couple of years, they want to reduce their ground-level CO2 emissions by 20-40% by taking on single-engine taxiing. This will involve shutting down the aircraft’s engine whilst they are taxiing within the airport – a change, which in many people’s eyes, should have been utilised many years ago.
Striving to be at the top of the airlines when it comes to offsetting their CO2 emissions by the end of 2021, they also want to spend on low emission aircraft and ensure that each flight is taking the most efficient route via the use of Future Airline Navigation Systems.
Lufthansa is an airline that’s invested billions in airline sustainability and yet they are often forgotten about or ignored in comparison to larger airlines. In 2008, they created a strategic environmental program which set about increasing an average of 1.5% per year in energy efficiency by 2020, a reduction of 50% in net CO2 emissions by 2050 and the promotion of alternative fuels.
With the latter, they are striving to use more sustainable fuels which have a reduced CO2 footprint. Along with this, they also want to replace their four-engine aircraft with more efficient twin-engine aircrafts for their long-haul and short-haul flights. Significantly reducing kerosene consumption, it’s a significant step towards progress.
Taking on the Single European Sky framework laid out by the European Union, they also want to eliminate any unnecessary detours during flights. Approximately, 1-2 million tonnes less CO2 will be produced as Lufthansa works within these guidelines.
Air France-KLM claims that within the airline industry, it can be hard to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions they produce. But similarly to the above airlines, they are taking several steps to assist with this.
Currently, their primary goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions by 20% per passenger in 2020’ having already reduced this by ‘17%’ at the end of 2018, this goal is within their reach. They also want to improve their overall energy efficiency, setting a target of reducing its CO2 footprint by 15% by 2013. But what steps are they taking to achieve this?
Within their roadmap to carbon reduction, they have pledged to renew their fleet with more fuel-efficient aircrafts – for example, replacing the Boeing 747 with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and by promoting alternative transport modes within short distance amongst other promises. Combining their current goals with future developments, they want to create flights which are driven by biofuel rather than jet fuel.
What does the future hold for sustainable air travel?
It’s clear that although the aviation industry is in no way sustainable, the above airlines and others are paving the way for more sustainable travel by making these valuable changes.
These pledges, whether they be to use alternatives to jet fuel, utilise varying waste management methods or generally reduce fuel consumption indicates that there are ways that they are trying to reduce their impact on the environment and not continuing to let air transport destroy the planet around us.
The future of the aviation industry is unclear. Whilst many airlines are creating sustainability commitments, a lot of passengers are turning against the industry and looking for more eco-friendly travel options. But as these passengers and customers voice their opinions about the impact that air travel is having on the world, the aviation industry puts more and more money into developing a more environmentally friendly service.