Wednesday 5th June was World Environment Day and it’s heartening to see the aviation industry – so often regarded as an environmental pariah – doing its bit to become eco-friendlier.
Take the finalists in BA’s recent Future of Fuels challenge for instance, which saw the likes of Heriot-Watt University researching the feasibility of turning woodchip waste into jet fuel and Dr Massimiliano Materazzi and his team from University College London’s department of chemical engineering suggesting that food waste could one day power our flights.
Such initiatives are becoming increasingly important, for while the industry is responsible for only 2.4% of global emissions, the International Civil Aviation Organisation forecasts that that the sector's greenhouse gas output could grow by a further 300 to 700% by 2050.
Whilst BA’s efforts at looking to the future must be applauded, there are a number of carriers who are working here and now towards common targets to address global challenges presented by climate change.
Emirates for instance has recently retired the last of its Airbus A340s and A330s; newer planes have much more fuel-efficient engines and weight-saving features such as lighter seats.
In 2018, Qantas operated the first biofuel flight between Australia and the United States using biofuel processed from mustard seed. This year it is offering ten Qantas Points for every dollar spent offsetting travel from Australia. The programme sees tree-planting take place in parts of Australia and New Zealand vulnerable to deforestation.
And Singapore Airlines applies data analytics to increase efficiency as well as optimise flight routings and aircraft weight management.
In short, there is no such thing as guilt-free air travel. But if you do want to do your bit, the Atmos Airline Index compares and ranks the carbon efficiency of the world’s 200 largest airlines.
Ranking highest are those that squeeze as many passengers as possible into their aircraft, something which has propelled TUI Airways to the top spot.
Chilean Brazilian carrier LATAM, which is known for using efficient aircraft, takes second place whilst at number three is China West Air, a regional Chinese airline that serves only short and medium distance routes, but with dense seating and high occupancy levels.