Sustainability update: Airlines up their game

Global passenger numbers are increasing every year, with more services, more aircraft, and more infrastructure all having a detrimental impact to the environment. For years airlines have been working to limit this impact and reverse the negative effect of the industry.

While some are more conscious of their impact than others, it is clear that more needs to be done by all. Below is snapshot of some of the key programmes announced in recent times:

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has joined The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, becoming the first airline to join the campaign to shift towards electric vehicles. EV100 is The Climate Group’s new global programme intended to fast track business uptake of electric vehicles, encouraging organisations to use their buying power and influence to build demand and help reduce the cost barrier to mainstream use. Air New Zealand has already committed to transition at leased 30% of its vehicle fleet to electric vehicles by 2019, under a 2016 corporate pledge with Mercury Energy and Westpac New Zealand.


JetBlue recently released its 2016 annual environmental and responsibility report outlining its efforts to further integrate long term environmental planning measures and corporate responsibility into its core business. Tomorrow is Our Business highlights major developments including the announcement of one of the largest renewable jet fuel agreements in aviation history, carbon offsets totalling more than 1.7 billion pounds of CO2e emissions and the donation of more than USD2.25 million worth of books to children in need. JetBlue also noted its key moves that have most impacted business, and corporate social responsibility initiatives that are of particular interest to customers and crew members. Additionally, JetBlue is reporting material environmental social governance (ESG) information of interest to investors with a white paper report produced according to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standard for the airline industry.


Qantas recently announced its Los Angeles based aircraft will be powered by biofuel from 2020, reducing the airline’s carbon emissions on its services operating between the US and Australia. Over the next ten years, the airline will purchase 30 million litres of renewable jet fuel p/a from SG Preston. The fuel will be used by Qantas’ aircraft operating from Los Angeles International Airport to Australia and follows the Qantas Group’s successful domestic biofuel trial flights in 2012. The fuel consists of 50% renewable jet fuel produced from non-food plant oils, blended with 50% traditional jet fuel. Compared to standard jet fuel, the biofuel emits half the amount of carbon emissions per gallon over its life cycle.


Emirates introduced a dry wash cleaning technique across its fleet of 260 aircraft, with the aim of saving more than 11 million litres of water p/a. The waterless technique enables longer periods between washes and can be performed in parallel with other MRO work. The airline also uses a foam wash technique for cleaning aircraft engines, which saves about 200 tonnes of CO2 emissions p/a. The introduction of blankets in economy class made from 100% recycled plastic bottles is another initiative recently implemented by the airline. using. The blankets were designed in partnership with inflight product specialist Buzz and use ‘ecoTHREAD’ technology.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia appointed Gevo to supply renewable alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) which will be blended with traditional jet fuel and supplied into the fuel supply system at Brisbane Airport. The carrier will be responsible for coordinating the purchase, supply and blending of the biofuel, with the first ATJ shipment already received. Virgin Australia Group CEO John Borghetti stated: “The project announced today is critical to testing the fuel supply chain infrastructure in Australia to ensure that Virgin Australia and Brisbane Airport are ready for the commercial supply of these exciting fuels”.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines announced plans to significantly enhance sustainability practices for its inflight F&B offerings. The ‘From Farm to Plane’ concept will be introduced to promote environmental sustainability and support local farmers’ communities. Current efforts include using fish from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and obtaining produce from local farms in countries served by the airline. The airline intends to use more sustainable and meatless ingredients and local produce. New inflight menus will be introduced using more sustainable ingredients and produce from local farms.