The importance of Etihad and SATAVIA’s contrail management partnership

by | Jan 30, 2023 | Airlines, News, Travel Tech

The importance of Etihad and SATAVIA’s contrail management partnership


Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) national carrier, Etihad Airways and SATAVIA signed the world’s first multi-year commercial agreement to integrate contrail management into routine operations.

Contrails, or condensation trails, are the lines of wispy clouds that follow behind some aircrafts in the sky. These are water vapor trails created by planes at high altitudes. Although the discourse surrounding the industry’s contribution to the climate crisis is primarily dominated by discussion of carbon dioxide, studies show that aviation’s contrails could be contributing more to global warming than carbon dioxide or other fuel emissions.

There are certain conditions that produce “persistent” contrails which are more detrimental to the climate. Amongst other factors, these include the time of day and altitude. However, as previously highlighted by Southwest Airlines’ director of environmental sustainability, when planning a flight to avoid contrails, it is important to balance this against the amount of extra fuel that will need to be burnt as a consequence.

Dr Edward Gryspeerdt, Faculty of Natural Sciences at Imperial College London, has highlighted how significant the warming effect of aviation induced contrails are. See the full conversation here.

“The warming effect of contrails is more than half the total climate impact of aircraft.

If you take the contrails that are in the atmosphere today, the warming effect of them is more than all the CO2 that has been emitted by aircraft since the dawn of flight.”

As the sector works creatively and tirelessly to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment, it is important that contrails are not omitted from the discussion.

On 18 January this year, Etihad and UK-based green aerospace firm SATAVIA signed a “ground-breaking” contrail management contract. This was build on a previous proof-of-concept engagement to expand the scope for contrail management within day-to-day flight operations.

SATAVIA’s contrail management platform DECISIONX:NETZERO, optimises commercial flight plans for greener operations, implementing small routing changes on a minority of flights to avoid the formation of persistent warming contrails.

Dr Adam Durant, SATAVIA CEO and Founder said:

By implementing minimal changes to a small percentage of flights, eco-conscious operators like Etihad can eliminate most of their non-CO2 climate footprint with little to no impact on day-to-day operations and on shorter timescales than other green aviation interventions. […] By implementing contrail management across their flight schedules, Etihad will once again blaze a trail for sustainable flight operations.”

Mariam Al Qubaisi, Head of Sustainability and Excellence, Etihad Airways said:

“In 2022 alone, SATAVIA technology has enabled us to eliminate thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent climate impact. We are delighted to sign this pioneering contract with SATAVIA at WFES, signalling our intent to tackle aviation’s non-CO2 impacts with cutting-edge science and ground-breaking technical innovation.”


Representatives from Etihad Airways will be speaking at Aviation Festival Asia next month. The event will have an entire track dedicated to sustainability, discussing cutting-edge strategies and pioneering with many of the leading figures from the industry. Get your ticket here.

For more recent articles around sustainability see:

ZeroAvia’s zero-emission flight makes history

NASA selects Boeing as partner for testing emission-efficient aircraft design

Schiphol Airport switches to renewably sourced Neste fuel for all diesel-powered ground handling vehicles and machinery 


Article by Jess Brownlow