Austrian Airlines Eyes Carbon Neutral Growth In 2020

**Update: 11/12/2019 @ 15:21 UTC – Austrian Airlines provided Simple Flying with a further comment. Read below for their input.** 

Austrian Airlines is the latest carrier to adopt a carbon-neutral stance with mounting concerns over the environment. The European airline today announced that it would use the new year to begin growing in a climate-conscious manner and cited three pillars that will help it to achieve its goal. But are its plans enough?

Austrian Airlines Eyes Carbon Neutral Growth In 2020
Austrian Airlines has a three-part plan for carbon neutrality. Photo: Austrian Airlines via Flickr

Austrian Airlines tackles CO2 emissions

Austrian Airlines is standing firm in its commitment to the environment. Today the airline announced the three key facets of a new plan to start carbon-neutral growth in 2020. In a press release, Austrian Airlines said that it will:

  • modernize its fleet,
  • reduce fuel consumption, and
  • run a scheme to compensate for passenger CO2 emissions.
Austrian Airlines Eyes Carbon Neutral Growth In 2020
Fleet modernization is high on Austrian Airlines’ list. Photo: Austrian Airlines via Flickr

In the release, the airline said:

“Starting in the coming year, Austrian Airlines aims to grow in a CO2 neutral manner. The Austrian national carrier committed itself to achieving this goal within the context of the so-called “CORSIA*” agreement.”

The airline has already agreed to the CORSIA agreement which is a policy by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that aims to reduce carbon emissions. It does so by adopting jet fuel alternatives and introducing more carbon offsetting projects.

Working towards a modern fleet

The first priority on Austrian Airlines’ agenda is to modernize its fleet. The airline has 83 aircraft in its fleet at the moment from a mixture of airframe manufacturers, including Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer. The airline said that it is committed to operating a modern fleet however it seems like it’s going to need to do a lot to get itself there.

The airline’s fleet has an average age of 15.4 years, according to Planespotters. Now that’s not particularly young. What’s more, Austrian Airlines only has one of the eight most fuel-efficient aircraft in its fleet as ranked by an ICCT report and that’s the Airbus A321. With an aging fleet that’s lacking in fuel efficiency, Austrian Airlines has got a long way from reaching peak modernization.

Austrian Airlines Eyes Carbon Neutral Growth In 2020
But Austrian Airlines has made savings on its Embraer aircraft. Photo: Austrian Airlines via Flickr

But the airline did say that it’s already experienced fuel savings by switching its Fokker aircraft to the Embraer ERJ-195. It said it was able to conserve 10,000 tons of fuel preventing 51,000 tons of CO2 emission releasing into the atmosphere. At least it’s made some headway to achieving its goals. But can we expect a big aircraft order in the near future?

Reducing fuel consumption

But it’s not just aircraft that’s helping Austrian Airlines reach its carbon goals. It’s the way that aircraft are used too. It says that it will reduce the weight carried onboard its aircraft as well as employing fuel-saving tactics on the ground. Pilots will shut off one engine upon landing to taxi to the gate. This is a strategy that cuts fuel burn in half. Apparently, this tactic among others saves Austrian Airlines 11,000 tons in CO2 emissions each year, according to the press release.

But whilst the news of Austrian’s carbon-neutral goals sounds like a drastic strategy shake-up, the press release from Austrian Airlines seems slightly vague. It does not expand on the broader details of how it’s going to achieve such an important move. We can only hope that it is confident in its own carbon-emission plans.

Is Austrian’s commitment a fair pledge?

Austrian Airlines Eyes Carbon Neutral Growth In 2020
Is Austrian Airlines’ pledge enough? Photo: Simple Flying / Thomas Boon

One particularly noticeable facet of Austrian’s environmental commitment is that it will allow passengers to compensate for their CO2 emissions. Carbon offsetting is nothing new with many airlines like easyJet and Air France already behind the movement. And it’s also not a new move for Austrian Airlines. But the airline has not had much success with the project. CEO at Austrian Airlines, Andreas Otto had this to say on the matter:

“Passengers can also compensate for the CO2 emissions of their flights but unfortunately only less than 1% of all passengers have actually done so up until now.”

If the airline is serious about paying for the impact of CO2 emissions, it will need to start actively engaging its customers. We asked the airline about its plans to encourage its passengers to be more eco-friendly. A spokesperson told us:

“We already started implementing different measures to provide more information about CO2 compensation to our passengers. These include for example regular articles about different environmental aspects of flying in our onboard magazine. So far we covered topics such as compensation (what it actually is, how it works, where passengers can find/do it, etc.) or sustainable aviation fuels. At the moment we are discussing further possibilities and campaigns, which will hopefully result in an increase of CO2 compensation.”

Yet despite this dismal adoption, the airline still seems to hold out hopes for the project. The aim is for customers to fund schemes run by an organization Austrian Airlines is partnered with which will invest in reforestation and cleaner fuel alternatives.

All in all, it seems like Austrian Airlines has set itself up for a busy year if it wants to make headway on its carbon-neutral goals. Do you think Austrian Airlines is doing enough? Let us know in the comments below!