The aviation industry is starting to fight back as the climate emergency provokes an ever more serious threat to our future. From plastic-free flights to environmental pledges, modern aviation is awash with proposals to keep passengers flying whilst tackling CO2 emissions. But which airlines are currently the greenest?
Tackling environmental concerns
When it comes to solving climate change, there’s no one size fits all approach. Instead, the solution requires developments in a variety of sectors. And this, in turn, has welcomed a plethora of plans on how to tackle the environmental crisis. The aviation industry is not exempt and we’ve seen many airlines adopt different approaches. The race is on to become the world’s greenest airline, but whilst many are pledging to make changes, there are some airlines already leading the way.
The lowest CO2-producing airlines
In lieu of completely ceasing operations, the next best thing for an airline’s carbon footprint is producing the least amount of CO2 possible. Airlines like Ryanair have recently begun recording their monthly CO2 statistics and a key metric is the amount of CO2 produced per passenger-kilometer.
The airline championing the lowest CO2 in this field for Europe is currently Wizz Air. According to its reporting, the airline says it produced just 56g of CO2 emissions per passenger-km. That’s knocked Ryanair off the top spot, with their 67g of CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometer.
However, there is debate as to which European airline produces the least CO2 emissions with Ryanair also claiming to be the leader. Ryanair states on its website:
“With the highest passenger load factor (96%) and one of the youngest fleets (ave. of 6 years), Ryanair delivers the lowest CO2 per passenger/km in the EU airline industry.”
The debate comes as not all official reports have acknowledged Wizz Air’s reporting which has resulted in disparity in results tables. However, if it is to be believed, Wizz Air boasts some impressive statistics that have not yet been rivaled.
Outside of Europe, however, Alaska Airlines has been ranked as one of the best performing airlines for CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometer. In 2017, a report by the Transition Pathway Initiative showed that Alaska Airlines produced 91g CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometer with an expected trajectory of 87g by the end of next year.
Best carbon offsetting airline
Carbon offsetting is another important consideration when it comes to an airline’s environmental impact. Despite the fact that airlines are able to reduce the CO2 emissions they produce per passenger, there’s no denying that any emissions produced are still creating a negative impact on our already compounded atmosphere.
Qantas is the airline which holds the title for the best carbon offset record. Its Future Planet scheme has managed to offset three million tonnes of carbon emissions from its flights since 2007. But it’s not stopping there.
Recently the Australian airline committed to doubling the number of flights it offsets, ambitiously factoring Project Sunrise flights into the equation. It says that for every customer that chooses to offset their carbon emissions, the airline will match that spending commitment.
In the press release from 11th November, the CEO of Qantas Group stressed the importance of acting on carbon-neutral pledges. Alan Joyce said:
“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the program will keep growing. These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious, but achievable….the solution from here isn’t to simply ‘fly less’ but to make it more sustainable.”
Qantas’ carbon offset projects currently help indigenous tribes, the prevention of wildfires, and the management of the Great Barrier Reef.
Best airline for plastic waste management
But besides the emissions aspect of the aviation industry, it is important to look at airline waste management when it comes to non-biodegradable commodities like single-use plastics.
Hi Fly and Etihad both operated plastic-free flights this year but it’s Hi Fly who is taking the plastic-free lead. It says that by the end of the year, in 19 days, it will be completely plastic-free. It will no longer use any disposable plastics on its flights.
That’s important for the protection of the environment and the depletion of precious resources that are used to make plastic. If Hi Fly manages to stay resolute on its commitment, it will become the world’s first plastic-free airline.
Additional special mentions
However, just because one airline manages to excel in a particular category we cannot discount other airlines who are making a difference to the environment.
Take Delta Airlines for example. It was the first airline to recycle cabin waste in the US. But Delta has also taken initiative when it comes to upcycling – a relatively novel angle for airlines. When staff received new uniforms last year, it upcycled over one million items to prevent unnecessary waste from going to landfill.
SAS is also committing to improving the environment. It’s allowing passengers to purchase segments of aircraft travel powered by biofuel.
At this current moment in time, there is no direct winner when it comes to the world’s greenest airline. There are lots of solutions out there and it is becoming easier to make environmental choices when traveling by aircraft.
Do you want to see more airlines going green? Let us know in the comments below.