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4 Ways Airlines Have Adopted Green Initiatives

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In the last ten years, innovations in the airline industry have resulted in safer and more efficient aircraft. Although air travel has improved considerably, the industry suffers from sustainability issues that could take several years to correct. With nearly 3% of the world’s carbon emissions attributed to air travel, consumers have increasingly pressured airlines to reduce their environmental impact. Developing a more sustainable model for worldwide air travel is a challenging prospect, but airline executives are cautiously moving forward on greener initiatives. Some of the eco-friendly measures the airlines are adopting include renewable energy, sustainable fuel, emissions reduction and electric power.

1. Renewable Energy

With a few exceptions, aircraft rely heavily on petroleum to provide power. A plane’s engines burn cleaner than those of the 20th century, but air travel has proliferated, and the increased volume of commercial and private flights have negatively affected air quality. To lower the impact of aircraft construction, some airlines have adopted renewable energy to power manufacturing plants. Solar power has emerged as the preferred form of green energy, and large airlines like Singapore Air have expanded their operating budgets to buy solar panels. With a solar power system, airlines can become more independent from utility companies by generating their own power. Replacing a standard energy source with solar power at a production facility reduces the manufacturing process emissions. Advanced solar cells and improved battery systems have made energy production more efficient, and with federal and state incentives, airlines can spend less to install massive solar power systems.

2. Sustainable Fuel

Aircraft require a large fuel supply to fly passengers to their destinations safely, and aeronautical engineers have made efforts to find alternative fuels that are less harmful to the environment. Sustainable fuel can be produced from municipal waste, used cooking oil, algae and plants. In 2019, a Boeing 787 was powered by mixing standard airline fuel with biofuel. The biofuel was created by using the Salicornia plant from the Abu Dhabi Desert. Although more companies experiment with biofuel for their fleets, the fuel is not cheap enough to compete with petroleum fuel. As more industry leaders adopt biofuel, the production cost will decrease and the fuel will become more widely accepted. Unlike standard jet fuel, biofuel produces fewer emissions and can be manufactured without using fossil fuels.

3. Emissions Reduction

Environmental activists criticize the aviation industry for being slow to react to emissions issues. The industry has improved its manufacturing process to lower emissions, but traditional aircraft continue to damage air quality with petroleum-based fuels. In 2009, the International Air Transport Association sought to address the problem by setting lofty goals for the industry. The plans include a carbon-neutral growth initiative after 2020 and a 50% carbon emissions reduction by 2050. Carbon-neutral growth involves keeping carbon emission rates at their current levels even when air travel increases. Although analysts are skeptical that the industry can meet these goals, over 81 countries have pledged to accomplish the feat and follow the recommendation made by the United Nations CORSICA plan. The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation plan allows airlines to purchase carbon offsets to reduce emissions. When a company buys carbon offsets, it pledges to compensate for their emission levels by reducing emissions in other areas of operation

4. Electric Power

The aviation industry plans to reduce emissions with innovative aerodynamic designs, electric power sources and hybrid engines. To reduce fuel consumption, Airbus is testing a prototype named Maveric that consumes 20% less fuel than a standard single-aisle plane. Other firms like ATR have experimented with turboprops rather than jet engines. ATR’s new model was developed to make short trips and consume 40% less gas than a comparable plane. Although electric and hybrid aircraft haven’t matched the range of a standard plane, MagniX plans to test an electric model in December 2020, and Smartflyer is scheduled to test a hybrid plane in 2022.


The plan to gradually restructure the aviation industry into a more sustainable enterprise is a challenging goal that may take several decades to complete. However, the industry has worldwide support for its green initiatives and continues to make progress.

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