Which are the most sustainable airlines to fly? If you are a responsible traveler and are concerned about your environmental footprint, take note of the companies that are most committed to the environment. Now more than ever, time flies.
More efficient fleets, biofuels, new recycling measures… Flying without polluting is not yet possible, but trying to minimize the impact we generate by traveling is.
The roadmap to sustainable aviation
Although air transport today is 80% more sustainable than 60 years ago, it is not enough. Not in the face of the undeniable climate change the planet is experiencing. As OXFAM Intermón points out, the greenhouse effect is a real threat that: “wreaks havoc on crops, causes deadly droughts and floods, and accentuates inequality by condemning the most disadvantaged to extreme poverty”.
What role does air traffic play in this scenario? According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it is responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions. What challenge does the aviation industry face? The goal is to halve net emissions by 2050. How do we win this battle? Implementing more environmentally friendly measures. This is a challenge that concerns the airlines and us as passengers in deciding how much, how and with whom to fly.
DID YOU KNOW? With the launch of the Single European Sky (SES) flights would be more efficient and journeys shorter – no detours, no zigzags. This restructuring of the navigation system would save on fuel and stop the emission of 10 million tonnes of CO2 each year. If Europe’s current airspace is fragmented and inefficient, what are they waiting for to implement it?
The most sustainable airlines
The environmental impact of air transport is now more than ever in the spotlight. Even more so at the height of the movement the shame of flying, promoted by activist Greta Thunberg, which is becoming viralized on social networks with hashtags like #stayontheground or #flightfree2020. What are the airlines doing about the demand for more responsible flights?
KLM: Flying responsibly
The Dutch KLM has been leading the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for more than a decade, which distinguishes the most sustainable airlines in the world. How does it manage to be as environmentally friendly as possible? By boosting the use of biofuels, reducing single-use plastics – 14 types of waste are recycled on each flight -, renewing its fleet with the new 787 Dreamliner that consumes 20% less than others of similar size, encouraging the use of the train for short distances and inviting passengers to offset their carbon footprint with the CO2ZERO program. One example: offsetting a flight from Barcelona to Amsterdam costs 1.85 euros. More information: KLM Takes Care.
LATAM Airlines: one of the most sustainable airlines
Another company very committed to the environment is LATAM, the main group of airlines in Latin America that is positioned as one of the three most sustainable airlines in the world according to the DJSI index. Under the slogan “More Sustainable Together”, it has developed a complete strategy in which actions such as I Care for my Destiny stand out. A program that drives sustainable tourism in South America by working with local communities and promoting conservation projects. Offsetting pollutant emissions with the purchase of ‘carbon credits’, supporting agro-biodiversity in countries such as Peru, developing alternative energies, and efficient waste management are also part of their commitment to sustainable aviation.
Delta Air Lines: the time is now
A billion dollars. This is the amount Delta Air Lines will invest to become the first carbon neutral airline worldwide. To achieve this goal, the American airline will focus on one of its main assets: technological research. In fact, with their Flight Weather Viewer application alone, which allows pilots to decide whether or not a change of altitude is desirable, they have achieved a carbon reduction of up to 88,000 tons per year. It all adds up to a comprehensive sustainability strategy. The renewal of the fleet, the use of forest floor waste to produce biofuel, recycling, renewable raw materials… Even small details such as onboard wireless entertainment systems or ecological toilets. In addition, the company has Delta Co2, another program that allows us to offset our environmental footprint.
Finnair: contributing to change
1 for a return trip within Finland, 2 for a flight within Europe and 6 for an intercontinental trip This is what it costs to offset our emissions by committing to Finnair’s Push for Change programme, which also includes the possibility of buying biofuel – much less polluting than kerosene. In addition to proposing to work together to achieve sustainability in the air sector, this Finnish airline offers the shortest and most eco-efficient routes between Europe and Asia, and is the European airline with the largest number of scheduled flights to Japan. Other measures they are taking include: using energy-efficient aircraft such as the Airbus A350, reducing cabin weight, working with national suppliers to improve the traceability of their products and services, new plastic-free toiletries including bioplastic toothbrushes, a food and beverage service with less packaging
Air France: Trip and Tree
As part of the Air France-KLM group, the French flag carrier is also taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change. A clear example of this is the 60 units of the Airbus A220 that will optimize its short and medium radio fleet and replace the A319 and A320. In addition, Air France is pursuing other initiatives such as the use of sustainable fuel – on flights such as those from San Francisco – and the replacement of single-use products with more ecological alternatives. Bio-based cutlery, paper cups, toiletry bags recycled from old life jackets… The goal: to eliminate 1,300 tons of plastic. What can you do? Participate in the Trip and Tree program with a financial contribution that will go to different reforestation projects.
Qantas and Air New Zealand
Australia’s Qantas and New Zealand’s Air New Zealand are two other companies that are also acting against the climate crisis. Qantas is aware that more than 80% of its travelers are committed to the planet and therefore strives to offer increasingly green services. In fact, it was this company that operated the first flight without plastic waste and the first commercial routes with fuel created from used cooking oil.
For its part, Air New Zealand has reduced carbon emissions by more than 20% over the last 10 years. How? With more efficient flight routes and programs such as FlyNeutral that allow passengers to offset their share of pollution. The sum of these voluntary donations is used to reforest the country’s forests and support the neediest communities.
Iberia: environmental efficiency
According to the company itself, sustainability is one of the main pillars of its strategy in 2020. Thus, within Iberia’s environmental efficiency plan, the renewal of the fleet with state-of-the-art aircraft such as the A350-900, which saves up to 25% in fuel, the compensation of emissions that will be carried out through a reforestation project in Peru, and the Life+Zero Cabin Waste project, designed to reduce and recover 80% of the waste generated in the cabins, stand out.
This good practice is also transferred to their ground services with the use of electric vehicles. One example: at the cargo terminal in Madrid, all the lifts and tractors have already been replaced by zero emission vehicles.
According to Boeing, in 20 years there will be 40,000 planes flying in the skies, twice as many as now. And if the picture does not change, aviation will be the industry that generates the most CO2, specifically 20% of global emissions.
There are many issues on the table. Whether or not to apply an eco-tax to flying, the use of less polluting means of transport, prioritizing the effectiveness of flights to the detriment of quantity… It is not for me to tell you how you should travel, I only encourage you to do so responsibly. Because we have no other world but this one, and because the solutions are already taking off.
* If you are wondering which are the most sustainable low-cost airlines, I urge you to read the article I will publish on the role that low-cost airlines are playing in the conservation of the planet.