How airlines can lower their carbon emissions

By Patrick Brown, Head of Product & People, Caeli Nova

How are airlines lowering their carbon footprint

According to flight tracking systems such as FlightAware and FlightRadar24, there can be up to 20,000 aircraft in our skies at any one time carrying more than 1.5 million people around the world. 

With this many flights, it’s not hard to see why such scrutiny is placed on the aviation industry’s impact on the environment. However, many airlines are now taking steps to mitigate against these and improve the sustainability of their operations. 

We take a look at what the current options are.

Carbon offsetting

As a first step, carbon offsetting enables airlines to invest in schemes that save or reduce the production of carbon waste and other emissions. Carriers such as Air France and Qantas already offer passengers the option to offset their carbon emissions through donations to internal or external schemes.

Airlines using carbon offsetting programmes can maintain their frequency of flights and, with it, maintain levels of waste production. However, carbon offsetting programmes now offer a chance to counteract this through supporting initiatives to reduce carbon waste elsewhere or increase the capture of carbon dioxide in the case of Air France’s Tree and Trip programme. 

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) has recently become a priority consideration for many airlines and airports with its use now implemented as standard across international carriers and airfields. 

SAF is made up of sustainable materials such as solid waste from our homes, cooking oils, food scraps and packaging. While its sources may differ tremendously from traditional fossil jet fuel, its chemistry is largely similar, though creating significantly reduced carbon emissions over the fuel’s lifecycle. 

Airlines already using SAF include Delta, United Airlines, KLM, Alaska Airlines and SAS. By replacing legacy jet fuel types with the sustainable variant, airlines are able to actively remove a harmful ingredient from their regular flight operations. While the frequency of these flights may not differ, their impact on the environment is significantly reduced. 

However, SAF is known to be significantly more expensive in comparison to normal aircraft fuel, which raises a financial question over its widespread use across the industry. Despite this, leading logistics and aviation freight provider, DB Schenker, has said the fuels mass use could drive its costs down, making it more appealing to airlines if it’s used throughout their aircraft fleets. 

Technology investments

One of the most impactful ways airlines can reduce their fuel usage, and as a result, carbon emissions is the implementation of technologies that bring about positive changes to their flight operations.

In the case of Cordillera, our first product for the aviation and aerospace industry, the air mix delivered to passengers in the rare event of a cabin decompression will keep them safely oxygenated at higher altitudes (21,000ft). As a result, aircraft can remain at such heights, particularly over high terrain or open bodies of water, making shorter and more direct routes to their destinations available. In turn, less fuel and associated carbon emissions are needed or produced. 

Additionally, the reduced weight of Cordillera compared to other systems used today will have positive benefits for fuel planning. What’s more, the higher cost of SAF can be limited if used in conjunction with systems such as Cordillera, which can reduce total flight distance and fuel required. 

The benefits for all

As the concern over environmental damage strengthens, airlines must look to change how they operate today. Carbon offsetting and use of SAF are steps that can be taken but cannot be seen as the end solution. Embracing technology designed to reduce fuel consumption rather than mitigate against its effects must be a key sustainability strategy.

By using an enhanced onboard oxygen system like Cordillera, airlines can save on fuel and fly passengers to their destination faster. 

To find out more about Cordillera, read our dedicated page here.