As the impact of climate change becomes more apparent with each passing day, the airline industry, which accounts for about 3% of global carbon emissions, has made it a strategic priority to tackle sustainability challenges. In October 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved a resolution to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, aligning itself with the Paris Agreement. As per IATA’s estimations, with approximately 10 billion people expected to fly in 2050, it may be challenging for the industry to achieve net zero emissions by the mid of this century.
While IATA has a concrete plan in place to achieve this target with Sustainable Aviation Fuel and more efficient airframe and propulsion technologies set to do the heavy lifting, for the airlines to be truly net zero, it is essential to look beyond these two factors. The need of the hour is to adopt a holistic approach across the entire aviation ecosystem. Airlines must create a comprehensive view of their emissions and start taking initiatives across the value chain for their reduction. They must understand their carbon footprint across Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 criteria as laid down under the GHG protocol and then establish a plan of action to achieve net zero.
Figure1: Comprehensive view of Airline Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions as per GHG guidelines
The above diagram illustrates the emissions across the airline value chain. There are several initiatives to reduce Scope 1 emissions (such as through the use of combustion jet fuel) and Scope 2 emissions (by opting for the use of renewable energy sources). Reducing Scope 3 emissions is still a grey area for airlines. Areas such as waste management and staff travel are vital areas contributing to Scope 3 emissions, but today, airlines are struggling to account for these factors.
Going all-in to achieve the net zero goal
With each passing day, climate changes are becoming scarier and also, more and more eco-conscious passengers are demanding to travel sustainably. Airlines today need to make bolder moves to achieve net zero, and we have defined a 3-pillar approach to help them:
Get control of your carbon footprint
The first fundamental principle to achieving net zero is for airlines to control the carbon footprint across their value chain. From direct to indirect sources and from owned/operated to supplier governed, airlines need to start tracking the carbon emissions generated across different operations and processes. This makes it crucial for airlines to track the lifecycle of carbon footprint generated across airline operations to understand the distribution, trends, and effectiveness of the measures taken to reach the net zero goal. We believe that the comprehensive process of understanding the Carbon Footprint life cycle will have the following steps:
Emission source identification: Identify and list down all the emissions sources across the airline value chain (Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3). Create a mapping of the emission factor used to calculate the carbon footprint for the respective emissions source.
Data collection: Track and collect resource utilization data, create energy use records as per fuel type, and model the carbon footprint records by converting energy uses into emissions.
Data validation: Check for data accuracy, connect with different stakeholders to understand the process flow, and ensure that no detail is missed.
Data gap filling: Identify the missing energy use records and fill in the gaps from actuals or through statistical computations.
Carbon offsets and renewable energy allocation: Identify and record the offsets such as tree plantation initiatives, sustainable aviation fuel, renewable energy sources, and purchase of carbon credits.
Forecasting: Forecast emissions and waste generation for the remaining part of the year based on historical data and industrial assumptions. This is basically a comparison of the targets set and the actual emissions/presumptions happening for the year. Makes it easy to visualize the targets and work accordingly
Airlines can now set sustainability goals and measure their progress with this complete understanding. The data can be used to create dashboards to generate actionable insights for organizations to define their net zero initiatives. Going a step further, it will even ensure successful and faster carbon audits and help publish reports to raise awareness about efforts towards sustainability.
Figure 2: Carbon footprint lifecycle management for airlines
Transform operations and supply chain
After airlines gain control of their carbon footprint by understanding the carbon lifecycle across operations, the next step is to decarbonize their operations and supply chain. There is considerable room to take up sustainability initiatives across the value chain, creating environmental impact and driving operational efficiency and cost benefits for airlines. Emerging technologies such as AI/ML, RPA and the metaverse provide the necessary fuel for airlines to transform their operations and supply chain.
While it is impossible to reduce carbon emissions across some of the operational processes, there are some areas where airlines can start acting immediately.
Blending digital workforce personas across business functions
Creating digital personas for the crew, ramp agents, etc., to digitalize some of their operational tasks would help airlines achieve operational efficiency and add to their sustainability goals.To explain how that is possible, let’s take the example of crew members. One of their tasks is to share feedback on cleaning services, an activity that is still being done through paper checklists. Automating the process would help make an environmental contribution by reducing paper usage and help in a faster turnaround. Now, let’s take the second example of the ramp agent responsible for marshaling aircraft. Connecting the ramp agent and providing all the details with just one click can significantly impact the taxiing time for aircraft, thereby saving precious fuel.
Managing cabin waste
Cabin waste essentially comprises two different types of waste—cleaning waste, which includes the leftover from the items given to passengers, such as towels, magazines, blankets, and catering (galley) waste, which consists of leftover food and drinks, packaging, etc. As per a study conducted by IATA, 23% of the total waste generated per passenger for a flight consists of untouched food and drink. This is another low-hanging fruit airlines can immediately pick that will help them reduce their carbon footprint and costs. For instance, a vision analytics-based solution could help airlines analyze the food consumption across the routes and then correspondingly optimize their food menu.
Incorporating predictive approaches across the value chain
Airlines are sitting on a data mine that is yet to be fully explored, and airlines need to start tapping into it to achieve net zero. By predictive modeling, airlines could estimate their wastes, better organize aircraft maintenance, and optimize their operations. For instance, airlines could reduce fuel wastage by predicting when an aircraft would be due for maintenance activities. Further on, airlines can even simulate the impact of maintenance activity on aircraft performance.These are just some of the examples of the use cases from the vast universe of innovative approaches possible today by leveraging emerging technologies. By identifying and implementing them, airlines can create an environmental impact and take steps toward lean operations and supply chain.
Seek differentiation with eco-conscious passengers
Today, there is a new segment in the market—eco-conscious travelers. Undoubtedly, the first-mover advantage to capture the considerable market share for this segment would be applicable here as well. So, airlines’ measures to reduce their carbon footprint can directly correlate with their revenue. It allows differentiating themselves from competitors and establishing an emotional connection with the passengers, further translating into loyal promoters for airlines. This helps raise the brand value for the airline and enables it to capture the market share at a premium price.
There is always the question of how premium pricing will be perceived in a price-sensitive market where airlines are competing for each penny. Well, to answer that, we can always take the inspiration from other industries, such as retail, where you will find fair trade products (where customers don’t mind paying up to 15% premium) occupying more and more shelf space and eco-clothing options selling at a higher price for all brands.
According to a recent Ocado research, 64% of their customers say that it is important to include fair trade products in their shop and 22% reveal that they buy a fair trade product weekly, indicating a high intentional purchase of fair trade products in the UK market.
Suppose airlines incorporate an appropriate marketing strategy powered by the right tools such as CRM enabling segmentation and right targeting at the right time and across the right channel. In that case, we believe the first movers in this area have a strong chance to capture this budding market segment.
By Ashish Sapra
Nagarro bring in much-needed technological and domain capabilities to help airlines embrace the challenge of sustainability. To know more about how they can support you in your net zero journey, contact their experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Airlines Pays $10 million Pre-Delivery Payment for eVTOL Aircrafts
United Airlines’ payment to Archer Aviation has put $10 million of their money where their mouth is. The airline has placed the first pre-delivery payment for the start-up’s eVTOL aircrafts. This money is for 100 of the initial production electric vertical take-off and landing aircrafts (eVTOLs) and signals United’s commitment to achieving sustainability through technology. The start-up’s co-founder Adam Goldstein stated “the team at United share our vision of a more sustainable future” confirming that the companies are working closely to “make sustainable urban air mobility a reality far sooner than people could ever imagine”
The start-up’s ties with the airline giant date back to 2021 when United signed a conditional agreement to purchase 200 of Archer’s aircrafts for $1 billion. The aircraft, known as Midnight, will be capable of transporting a pilot alongside four passengers and together the fleet will connect customers to United’s hub airports. Since 2021 the companies have been working synergistically, with United forming an advisory committee guiding Archer and supplying the innovative start-up with years of operational and maintenance experience.
United Airlines has been public in their push for sustainability and their tangible ties to Archer demonstrate a commitment towards reaching this goal. In 2021, CEO Scott Kirby declared that United would seek to combat global warming by “embracing emerging technologies that decarbonise air travel,” and help fund the next generation of companies developing this tech. United’s financial backing distinguishes Archer from its competitors with the majority of provisional sales for eVTOL aircrafts boasting neither a cash deposit nor a formal payment schedule.
Whilst this represents a step towards a more sustainable future within aviation, eVTOLs face push back from local regions and communities. Sergi Alegre, Director General for the Airport Regional Council will be moderating the panel on “How airports can prepare for the Advanced Air Mobility revolution” at this year’s World Aviation Festival. Furthermore, Lauren Riley the Chief Sustainability Officer at United Airlines will be discussing their path to net-zero carbon emissions and sitting on the panel discussing whether we “have the right level of ambition, collaboration, and investment towards a net-zero future.”
Is this summer’s baggage crisis an innovation opportunity?
BBC News published an article this summer about the “tech aiming to prevent lost airline luggage”. It was certainly timely given the horror stories at some European airports over the summer, both in mishandled bags and in customer service. The article quotes the SITA report that highlighted 19m mishandled bags and 1.3m lost bags in 2021. We are in 2022, and you still hesitate to check a bag for your next flight? You’re not alone 😉
Have you noticed that new warehouses, like Amazon’s, or new factories, like Tesla’s, are fully automated, also like data centres? What about bag handling at airports today, is it fully automated? No, unfortunately bags are still loaded manually in aircraft today, like 50 years ago… Until we go to “dark airports” and implement automation in bag handling, what options do travelers have when they travel with bags? This paper explores the root causes of the chaotic situation, the alternatives in the short term to avoid issues and in the longer term to fix the problem.
Overall the baggage operations for airlines is roughly a zero sum game. The cost of carrying 3 billion bags per year is about $30bn, or $10 per bag. This cost is roughly offset by ancillary bag fees also at around $30bn. The mishandled bags represent roughly an extra $3bn cost. The baggage operation processes are very complex and manual. Large airports use sophisticated sortation systems running on kilometres of belts. Bags are loaded and offloaded from aircraft manually, except for large aircraft with containers.
In this spring in Europe, as the Omicron wave was fading, consumers regained confidence, air traffic resumed and reached almost the levels of 2019 with load factors of 86%. The airport and bag handling staff, who were furloughed during 2020 and 2021, did not return fast enough in their jobs. This shortage was worsened by the Coronavirus still being active and putting staff on sick leave. Overall there were not enough hands for the manual bag processes.
Can tracking bags with electronic tags help?
The bag tags currently provided by airlines are equipped with barcodes which are read only at certain points in the end-to-end process. This means that airlines and airports have a limited view of where the bags are. Adding an electronic tag, either provided by the airline or included by the travelers themselves (like the Apple AirTag), may help locate the baggage beyond the existing tracking points at bag drop and before the carousel.
Tracking the bags may indeed help the travelers to find out where their bags are, for example if a bag is stuck in a warehouse waiting to be picked up by a delivery team. As such it can accelerate the retrieval of the bag and save time looking around 10,000 bags for a needle in a haystack. But these tags don’t make bags travel faster, don’t add hands to load bags in aircraft and don’t deliver bags at home.
Can one remove the baggage bottleneck at the airport?
One approach to tackle the baggage operation issue is to remove some baggage from the sortation systems, or at least at the peak times. This can be done at departure by dropping the bags off-airport or by picking up bags from home and processing them in parallel. At arrival, the airline may offer a home or hotel delivery of the bags.
There are live solutions that exist today, like Airportr quoted in the BBC article. A baggage agent comes to the traveler’s home, seals the bag and loads it into an electric van. The bag is carried safely to the destination. Due to current regulations, the bags travel in the same aircraft as the customers, but in time we can imagine that bags can travel independently. They could also be picked up by drones that can lift 20 kilo payloads.
Is there an alternative to bag sortation systems and manual loading?
The air travel industry still handles every bag individually and manually. Conversely the maritime shipping industry went through a containerization transformation. The maritime organizations got together and set standards for 20-feet and 40-feet containers. Over the past 50 years, lengthy processes were removed and replaced with container ships.
This transformation inspired André Safir with the Squarcle project, whereby travelers drop their bags directly into containerized lockers. There is no need for bag sortation and no manual intervention. Such radical invention has the potential to transform the baggage operations, reducing costs and mishandling, but also avoided future congestions and chaos in case of rapid changes in air traffic.
While bag operations have done a tremendous job at delivering billions of bags per year, they represent relatively high costs and a low resilience to irregular operations. The air travel industry has a major opportunity to learn from this summer’s Europe crisis and to explore new ways of handling bags – more automated, more cost-effective, most resilient and ideally more sustainable.
The aviation industry connects people and countries, opening the gateway to many economic and social opportunities. Given the benefits aviation brings, the need for connectivity is growing. IATA estimates that the demand for air passenger journeys in 2050 could exceed 10 billion, and the expected carbon emissions between 2021 to 2050 will be approximately 21.2 gigatons of CO2. This vast amount of emissions will need to be mitigated! A resolution was passed by IATA member airlines committing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Roadmap towards net zero
The major focus on achieving net zero carbon emissions is on using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), investing in new aircraft technology, and carbon offsetting methodology. We believe that the 2050 objective can be accelerated by realigning the existing infrastructure & operations, which can contribute directly to reducing carbon footprints.
Figure 1: Contributors to achieving net zero carbon by 2050s (Source: IATA)
1. Fuel-saving schemes
Reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft ground movements by overcoming long taxi-in and taxi-out times.
Taxiing aircraft contribute significantly to fuel burn and emissions at airports. Taxiing delays are frequently caused by congestion and queuing, which occurs when there are last-minute changes in the departure sequences, gate allocation issues for arrival flights, delays in departing flights, etc. To overcome these challenges, airlines can deliver an on-time flight turnaround process. They can also update ATC and airport operators with accurately predicted off-block time (POBT) to plan runway and gate utilization effectively.
The single largest operational expense for airlines is fuel, which accounts for nearly 30-60% of expenditure in an average year.
Also, many airlines rely on the manual calculation of the EOBT (expected off-block time) and TOBT (targeted off-block times) for pushback timings. To overcome chances of error, airlines and airports can build a smart turnaround model that leverages technologies like computer vision and AI/ML. The model can associate each of the turnaround tasks with an object which can be visually identified from the camera stream at the airport.
Combining the real-time events with historical data and understanding of the airport, airline, and ground handlers, this model can evaluate the performance of the turnaround activities and utilize it to alert the stakeholders in case a process hasn’t started or if a delay is expected. All this while continuously predicting POBT and helping ATC and airport operators optimize runway and gate utilization.
Reduce CO2 emissions in the air by upgrading flight plans with best practices
Data analytics can enable better decision-making, reduce carbon emissions, and improve flight efficiency. Data can be used to boost the flight plan with the best practices for the operating crew. Airlines can leverage AI/ML-based algorithms that analyze billions of data records from multiple data sources, including flight data recorders (FDR), operational flight plans, ACARS messages, engineering systems, load sheets, and tech logs, and combine them with real-time environmental data and actual flight conditions to identify the best practices for fuel saving.
Post-flight, the data from the Electronic flight folder (EFF) can be extracted, and a report can be generated. This will tell the amount of fuel that was saved during the flight, giving multidimensional insights to relevant stakeholders for necessary actions.
Reduce flight turnaround process time by digitalizing the refueling process
Today, if the cockpit crew makes a small change in refueling figures, it takes a long time to pass on the message to the refueling agent. Airlines still use a combination of paper-based transactions and outdated systems to manage their operations, which often adds extra minutes to the flight turnaround process. Digitizing this process can improve efficiency and increase transparency in many ways, leading to increased sustainability and reduced carbon footprint, with the bonus of saving time and money.
2. Air Quality Index improvement schemes
Reduce APU utilization at apron
APUs are small engines located in the aircraft tail and are used to power electrical systems onboard when the main engine is turned off. It can power cleaning equipment, run air conditioning systems, and even start main engines before or during pushback. The problem? APUs run on jet fuel with higher carbon emissions.
Aircrafts should transition to ground power units (GPUs) for their ground operations whenever possible. Airports and airlines can work on identifying the aircrafts that continue running on APUs at the gates, even when GPUs are available. Microphones positioned at gates can act as IoT sensors that pick up the sound of the APU running. This data can then be cross-referenced against schedules and other data to determine whether an aircraft is running its APU instead of using the power grid. Relevant stakeholders can then be informed, so necessary actions can be taken to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
At the same time, airlines can also track the APU utilization from APU logs available in the cockpit, which provides data on-time units, cycle run, and even the average produced by APU engines. This information can further be mapped with respective flights, routes, and operating crews to understand when APU was overutilized. This solution on blockchain technology can help airlines build the APU lifecycle which can accurately report the carbon emission per APU.
Even today, airlines’ staff rely on paper-based transactions and manual tasks, which are often time-consuming and error-prone. Some of them, like flight dispatch documents and operating manuals, cannot be avoided as regulatory authorities lay them down. But there is a lot of scope among the other operating areas which can be digitalized.
Airlines must develop a new approach to amplify human potential with a blended workforce where human skills are complemented with digital skills. Depending upon the operational scale and workforce distribution, airlines can curate personas for specific roles that play a major role in the operation. Airlines can easily target roles like cabin crew, ramp agents, and engineering staff to start their journey. They depend on paperwork. You can empower them with a mobility solution that caters to all their needs starting from managing their roster in the morning to getting a cab and performing all their mundane tasks while also connected with all other airline systems. This solution will holistically cover their work lifecycle.
Overcome thermal bag tag and asset reconciliation challenges
During the pandemic, airlines and the airport accelerated their contactless journey by onboarding self-bag drop kiosks and home-printed bag tags. But, even then, more than 95% of baggage operations across the world depend on thermally printed bag tags which are extremely dangerous to the environment. When you consider the thermal paper’s chemical composition, it contains Bisphenol A (BPA) and other phenolic chemicals that pose many risks to the environment and can’t be easily recycled. The easy solution is to use digital bag tags, which can be reused by the passenger every time they travel. Digital bag tags are easy to reconcile and deliver a complete baggage journey view across various scan points.
Similarly, assets reconciliation challenges across various other functional areas like GSE, engineering, catering, and even aircraft safety equipment could be solved by using IoT technology. For instance, today, the reconciliation of lifesaving jackets installed under the aircraft seats is done manually by the security staff on paper. This can easily be transitioned to a one-click reconciliation using IoT.
4. Cabin waste management schemes
Airlines must focus on minimizing their cabin waste by reducing, reusing, and recycling to minimize their environmental footprint. Cabin waste comes from 2 main streams—cleaning waste and catering waste.
As per a study by IATA, 23% of the total waste generated per passenger consists of ‘untouched food and drink’.
To overcome this challenge, airlines can leverage technologies like computer vision along with AI/ML for understanding travelers’ likes and dislikes of a particular food item across different sectors and booking classes and on various routes. This data can help caterers understand the food consumption patterns, and revise the menus accordingly.
5. Facility usage optimization schemes
Another big challenge adding to airlines’ carbon footprint comes from their facilities like back offices, training institutes, corporate offices, and even self-operated terminals.
Airlines can optimize their buildings’ energy consumption by deploying IoT sensors on various assets in their facilities, including lighting, cooling systems, doors, and toilets, to track their energy utilization and automatically shut them down when not in use. Data from all these sensors can be brought together to create dashboards, delivering actionable insights that can help facility managers optimize energy consumption. This data can be further used to build predictive analysis to identify and replace dysfunctional equipment without creating bottlenecks and downtime at the facility.
While the airlines are doing the heavy lifting by bringing SAF and investing in new aircraft technologies, a lot can be done within the existing operational setup and reduce their carbon footprint.
By Vinay Yadav
Nagarro bring in the much-needed technological and domain capabilities to help airlines implement green schemes and embrace the challenge of sustainability. To know more about how they can support you in your net zero journey, contact their experts at email@example.com.
As airports adapt to new environmental requirements, technology steps up to help them keep track of their carbon footprint.
Swedavia and Veovo have partnered to introduce environmental emissions incentives for airlines. The airport operator’s flexible airport charges scheme essentially rewards airlines for operating out of Swedavia airports Stockholm Arlanda and Gothenburg Landvetter with more fuel-efficient aircraft. In all, Swedavia operates 10 Swedish airports and is a leader in adopting environmental innovations.
The recently introduced CO2 and NOx Emission Charges follow a Swedish government requirement that airport charges be differentiated for environmental purposes. Airlines are charged more when operating aircraft with higher emissions and less when operating cleaner aircraft. The overall effect on airport revenue for Swedavia is neutral.
Lena Wennberg, chief sustainable development officer at Swedavia, says:” Swedavia wants the travel of the future to be sustainable. For many years, we have actively worked towards a transition to more sustainable travel via our airports. By the end of 2020, Swedavia became completely fossil-free in our airport operations. Fossil-free renewable HVO-diesel is now being fuelled at our airports. Within the Swedish government’s initiative Fossil-free Sweden, which we work within, there are also goals for domestic flights to be completely fossil-free by 2030. For international traffic, all planes taking off from Swedavia’s airports must be fossil-free by 2045″.
Veovo’s Revenue Management software will automatically calculate airlines’ environmental impact at the airport, using industry emission data sets and Swedavia’s innovative environmental charging approach. Swedavia shares the calculations with airlines on their invoices.
” The industry’s drive towards increased sustainability and carbon neutrality requires a toolkit of innovative technologies and approaches, including charging that rewards cleaner aircraft,” said James Williamson, CEO of Veovo. “We are pleased that our aeronautical billing engine with complete charge flexibility will support Swedavia in their initiative.”
Swedavia’s climate transition work was recently honoured by the Airports Council International (ACI), awarding the operator the Eco-Innovation Airport of the Year in 2021.
Airports embrace sustainability
Readers may be interested in the perspective of Jennifer Desharnais, Manager Sustainability at ACI World, who advises the aviation industry not to consider sustainability as a mere “box-ticking exercise.”
“Airports are not new to the practice of operating as sustainably as possible. Several show true leadership, and clearly have a solid sustainability strategy that cascades down and engages all employees. These airports typically create innovative partnerships, collaborate with both in-sector and out-of-sector stakeholders, invest in technologies and training, embrace change, understand the needs of the passengers and communities they serve, and measure their impact on society and the environment. Overall, the airport sector is one that recognises the intricate interdependencies of all three pillars of sustainability, and the associated risks and opportunities.”
But there will be a lot of measures to account for, and technology companies can help make progress toward a carbon-neutral future more transparent.
The future of flexible airport charges
ACI World has suggested that flexible airport charges might also result in the more efficient use of airport infrastructure. ACI World published a policy brief on this topic at the end of last year—Airport Charges: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom—with the assistance of InterVISTAS Consulting Inc. and the support of Oman Airports Management Company, ACI Africa, ACI Latin America-Caribbean, and ACI North America.
The brief suggests:
Policies on airport charges should ensure that they serve the travelling public’s and local communities’ best interests.
Strictly cost-based airport charges do not ensure that infrastructure is used more efficiently to benefit the travelling public.
The primary focus of charges should be on market needs and signals for the efficient use of infrastructure.
The best way forward in the changing competitive landscape is through commercial agreements between airports and airlines.
Light-handed oversight formats are preferable in exceptional situations where economic regulation of charges is deemed necessary.
More flexible policy
The environmental incentive scheme introduced by Swedavia appears to be a better solution to keep Europe’s airports on target than the Fit for 55 proposals put forth by the European Commission.
Fit for 55 refers to achieving a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 relative to 1990 levels and encompasses the goal to meet net-zero targets by 2050. The European Commission has proposed mandating the use of sustainable aviation fuels (in its ReFuelEU Directive), requiring the supply of electricity to stationary aircraft (in the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, AFIR), and putting an effective price on CO2 emissions and jet fuel (through the EU Emission Trading System, ETS, implementation of CORSIA, and the European Taxation Directive, ETD).
While well-intended and in some ways aligned with aviation’s environmental commitment, ACI Europe has pointed out that Fit for 55 could have an unintended negative impact on European airports, airlines and passengers alike.
The AFIR will require airports to upgrade or change their infrastructure to ensure electricity supply is available at aircraft gates and stands.
The other proposals will increase airlines’ costs— e.g. by introducing a kerosene tax. The extent to which airlines mitigate, absorb or pass through these cost increases to passengers and how passengers respond to any fare changes will determine the effect of these proposals on carbon emissions and demand and revenue at airports.
The Fit for 55 proposals will reduce demand at European airports.
Fares on direct flights could increase by 11% in 2030 and 13% in 2050, leading to a reduction in demand of 5% in 2030 and 6% in 2050.
However, the Oxera report points out that while these policies will dampen demand, the overall trend is for future passenger demand to exceed 2019 levels. These policies will not curb flying. Aircraft will remain a preferred form of transport for many. Instead, they will only lessen the number of flights operating in Europe.
Climate change is a global issue, and the solutions should also be global.
Oxera finds Fit for 55 might encourage more airlines to program connecting flights that avoid European airports and switch routes to connect through other airports instead. Even flights originating in Europe destined for long-haul routes may choose to connect through airports elsewhere. After building the infrastructure to attract connecting flights, Europe’s airports need to remain viable.
What is more, this policy shift would not effectively accomplish its mission.
The proposals reduce carbon emissions per passenger by 54% in 2050 on flights within the EU, but only by 20% on flights that connect EU and non-EU airports.
ACI EUROPE proposes the following policies:
Further incentivise and provide financial support to increase uptake of SAF (sustainable aviation fuels).
Allocation of revenues from taxation and ETS for aviation decarbonisation
Exempt small airports from supplying electricity for stationary aircraft
Engagement with the EU’s main trading partners and other third countries to accelerate international decarbonisation goals and actions
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE, said: “The achievement of our climate goals is too important to proceed with anything other than the fullest body of knowledge possible. And the social and economic cohesion that comes with robust air connectivity is too valuable to our continent and communities to put at risk. Oxera’s report shows that the ‘Fit for 55’ package, whilst unquestionably valuable in its aspirations and directions, invites unwelcome and unanticipated consequences through a lack of a comprehensive and cumulative impact assessment. As we all strive to decarbonise our sector, let us go forward with our eyes wide open. The process will be costly and lengthy, and ours is by its very nature a global industry. The measures we propose today will help create a firm foundation for us to move forward whilst protecting Europe and its citizens from distortion and exclusion. We urge the European Institutions to incorporate these in their next steps”.
While the objective is to ensure a sustainable future for humanity, there are more gains to be made from flexibility.
Fresh green tech opportunities
In her article, Desharnais also raises awareness about the complexity of reporting, highlighting opportunities for the tech sector to offer solutions that will help keep aviation on track towards net-zero 2050.
“The spotlight on sustainability is resulting in a multitude of ESG ratings and rankings, sustainability reporting frameworks and guidelines, and target setting guidelines, popping up all over the sustainability landscape. Often dubbed the “ESG alphabet soup”, the topic continues to gain greater attention every day, demonstrating the pressing need for standardisation. For airports and many other businesses, it can easily become confusing. ACI’s ESG Management Best Practice aims to help airports better understand the differences between ESG and sustainability reporting, the steps they can take to start or improve reporting, and the reasons why investors are interested,” she writes.
The environmental commitments made by the aviation industry—to achieve net-zero targets by 2050—requires technological innovation not only in aircraft and fuel systems but in how we measure and keep track of operations. Governments, investors, and the travelling public will demand transparency along the path to net-zero. Ensuring accurate reporting will be essential.
After all, sustainability is nothing without accountability.
As we mark Earth Day this Friday, we thought to look at the airline industry’s progress on sustainability.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has defined a strategy to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Combined measures include cutting emissions at the source, switching to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), employing new propulsion technologies, adopting carbon offsetting schemes, and employing new carbon capture technologies.
IATA shows the share of each of these as contributors to the Fly Net Zero targets:
65% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
13% New technology, electric and hydrogen
3% Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
19% Offsets and carbon capture
The latest media update on the airline industry’s Fly Net Zero initiative, by Sebastian Mikosz, IATA SVP Environment & Sustainability, brings the focus back to long-term imperatives for the industry’s 2050 Net Zero emissions deadline.
Mikosz references the volatility in prices of oil, kerosene and commodities stemming from the current crisis in Ukraine. Airlines urgently need to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, but that requires significant investment from the public and private sectors in SAF and new technologies.
IATA projects airlines will require 450 billion litres of SAF by 2050 to reach the Net Zero goal, but government support is needed to ensure that adequate supply is available and affordable.
Mikosz writes that SAF uptake, purchase agreements, and production are rising, and investment in new energies like hydrogen or electric is increasing. Still, he warns, “The difficulties of achieving #FlyNetZero cannot be understated, but the progress we are seeing across the industry shows that this goal needs to be achieved, and progress is key, but the road ahead will be long.”
The key, Mikosz suggests, is to keep taking the small steps along the journey that lead us to the destination. He also shares updates on those critical small steps.
Progress on SAF (Demand)
In March, Airbus flew its biggest aeroplane – the A380 – on SAF: the aircraft flew from Toulouse with one of its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines powered by 100% sustainable fuel.
Ryanair aims to achieve a third of its decarbonisation target by flying its planes with sustainable aviation fuels.
Oneworld members are to purchase up to 200 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel per year from Gevo.
Neste and DHL have announced one of the largest ever sustainable aviation fuel deals. Neste will supply DHL with approximately 320,000 tonnes (400 million litres) of SAF in the next five years.
Finnair signed an agreement with Aemetis to supply 17.5 million gallons of SAF over seven years.
British Airways took delivery of an initial batch of the first UK-produced SAF under its agreement with Phillips 66.
Progress on SAF (Production)
Honeywell and China’s Oriental Energy Company plan to build China’s first SAF production base.
TotalEnergies will begin producing SAF at its Normandy platform and aims to fulfil the French government’s new mandate for aircraft to use at least 1% of SAF by 1 January 2022.
Repsol has begun constructing Spain’s first advanced biofuels plant at its Cartagena refinery.
“Algae can be used as an alternative energy source for many industries, including biofuel and as jet fuel,” says Joshua Yuan, PhD, who leads the research project. “Algae is a good alternative fuel source for this industry. It’s an alternate feedstock for bioethanol refinery without the need for pretreatment. It’s lower cost than coal or natural gas. It also provides for a more efficient way of carbon capture and utilisation.”
While many studies over the past decade suggest algae has excellent potential as fuel biomass, algae growth limitations and high harvest costs hinder commercialisation.
“We overcome these challenges by advancing machine learning to inform the design of a semi-continuous algal cultivation (SAC) to sustain optimal cell growth and minimise mutual shading,” Yuan said.
Yuan uses an aggregation-based sedimentation strategy designed to achieve low-cost biomass harvesting and economical SAC.
Government support for new technology
France announced an investment plan that will allocate €1.2 billion for decarbonising aviation, between 2022 and 2030, including €800 million in R&D towards the development of a hydrogen aircraft.
Alternative fuel start-up Universal Hydrogen will open a facility in New Mexico (US) to manufacture and distribute hydrogen fuel tanks for aircraft.
Airbus will explore high-voltage battery behaviour during test flights of an electric light aircraft this year. The aircraft manufacturer hopes to apply the technology to ‘micro-hybridisation’ – using battery power in a supportive, rather than a propulsive, role for more significant aircraft types.
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Pratt & Whitney a project to develop highly efficient hydrogen-fuelled propulsion technology for the commercial aviation industry.
Delta and Airbus will collaborate on industry-leading research to accelerate the development of a hydrogen-powered aircraft and the ecosystem it requires.
Denmark pledged to build up to six gigawatts (GW) of electrolysis capacity to convert renewable power into green hydrogen as it weans itself off fossil fuels to boost energy security.
In India, Kochi airport became the world’s first to operate on solar power completely.
Everything you didn’t even think you wanted to know about SAF production
The authors of the report summarise SAF targets and objectives in the Abstract as follows:
“The 106-billion-gallon global (21-billion-gallon domestic) commercial jet fuel market is projected to grow to over 230 billion gallons by 2050 (U.S. EIA 2020a). Cost-competitive, environmentally sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) are recognized as a critical part of decoupling carbon growth from market growth. Renewable and wasted carbon can provide a path to low-cost, clean-burning, and low-soot-producing jet fuel. Research shows an opportunity to produce fuel in which aromatics are initially diluted with the addition of renewable iso-alkanes, aromatics are later fully replaced with cycloalkanes, and finally high-performance molecules that provide mission-based value to jet fuel consumers are introduced. Key to this fuel pathway is sourcing the three SAF blendstocks—iso-alkanes, cycloalkanes, and high-performing molecules—from inexpensive resources. When resourced from waste carbon, there are often additional benefits, such as cleaner water when sourcing carbon from wet sludges or less waste going to landfills when sourcing the carbon from municipal solid waste or plastic waste. Jet fuel properties differ from gasoline and diesel, so research will be most successful if it begins with the end result in mind.”
Solar Fuel with Synhelion & SWISS
As IATA’s Mikosz highlights, another opportunity for SAF production exists with renewable electricity and solar heat. Both need synthesis gas as an intermediate, hydrogen and carbon monoxide mixture. Industrial gas-to-liquid processes could then turn this into liquid fuel.
SWISS and the Lufthansa Group are working with Synhelion to develop sun-to-liquid (StL) fuel. Synhelion has developed a unique technology that will use solar heat to drive thermochemical processes for SAF production. Solar heat is the cheapest renewable energy source available. Solar-fuel plants are self-sustaining without requiring a power-grid connection so that production capacities can scale quickly and independently.
Happy Earth Day, everyone. It’s a lovely little world. Let’s keep it.
Airbus has announced an ambitious strategy to decarbonise the air transport industry, with the ZEROe project—which explores zero-emission technologies for a future aircraft—playing a significant role.
Hydrogen is one of the most promising zero-emission technologies to reduce aviation’s climate impact, and airports play a pivotal role in enabling the transition to a climate-neutral aviation ecosystem.
Airbus Hydrogen Hub at Airports
In 2020, Airbus launched “Hydrogen Hub at Airports”, which aims to jumpstart research into infrastructure requirements for future hydrogen aircraft, as well as low-carbon airport operations, across the entire value chain. Various airport authorities, airlines and energy providers are already signing on to get involved.
“Airports have a key role to play to enable the transition to a climate-neutral air transport ecosystem,” said Lionel Cousseins, Airbus ZEROe Market Development and Airline Relations Manager. “Hydrogen Hub at Airports enables us to collaborate with partners to define needs today, so we can pave the way for hydrogen adoption by 2035.”
There are benefits to Hydrogen Hubs for airports that go beyond powering future sustainable aircraft. For example, ground transport, including buses for passenger transport to and from aircraft, and heavy-dutylogistical vehicles – such as aircraft tugs and cargo trucks –could also be powered by hydrogen in future, contributing to a reduction in airports’ overall emissions. Airports can also improve their environmental impact by using hydrogen for cooling and heating the airport facility.
“The on-site production (and liquefaction) of hydrogen could also be a promising option for airports to meet their individual energy needs. This solution would eliminate the need for transport to and from off-site hydrogen production facilities, which would further reduce emissions. In doing so, airports could also become future energy ecosystems with liquid hydrogen production at their core,” Airbus suggests.
Airbus expects to produce the first hydrogen-powered aircraft around 2035. The European aerospace company has been encouraging airports to prepare facilities for the supply of hydrogen to power the new greener aircraft.
Changi and Incheon
In February, Airbus signed a Cooperation Agreement with Changi Airport Group, global industrial gases and engineering company Linde and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to study building a future hydrogen hub in the city-state.
Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer, Han Kok Juan, Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Yam Kum Weng, Executive Vice President of Changi Airport Group, and John Panikar, Executive Vice President, APAC of Linde, signed the agreement at the Singapore Airshow.
The partners aim to leverage their expertise in support of the aviation industry’s commitment to decarboniseand achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. They will examine how hydrogen can be transported, stored and delivered to aircraft at existing and new airports.
Airbus will provide characteristics on aircraft configuration and fleet energy usage, insight on hydrogen-powered aircraft for ground operations, and data on the estimated hydrogen aircraft ramp-up at airports.
“The Asia-Pacific region will play a key role as we work towards making climate-neutral aviation a reality,” said Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer. “By partnering with Changi Airport and with Incheon Airport, Airbus will leverage the operational and technical expertise of two of the world’s leading hubs. The studies we will carry out together reflect the need for a cross-sectoral approach, including manufacturers, airlines, regulators, airports, energy providers and academia. We need bold and coordinated action to achieve our goals.”
The agreement will focus on a series of feasibility studies aimed at developing a hydrogen refuelling hub for non-aviation use in the short term and developing infrastructure for hydrogen use in aviation in the future.
“With this agreement, SEA has taken a concrete step forward in enabling important solutions for the decarbonisation of airports and the entire industry,” said Armando Brunini, CEO of SEA. “We are going through an important transition and have chosen to be at the forefront of it, together with our partners. Innovation is in the DNA of aviation and, also thanks to Airbus, is moving towards a transformation that was unimaginable up to just a few years ago. We are proud to be part of it.”
With Milano Malpensa and Milano Linate airports, SEA is among the European airports that will achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2030, twenty years earlier than the 2050 deadline set by the European Green Deal.
SEA is part of the European Commission-funded project “OLGA, hOlistic & Green Airports,” committed to decarbonising aviation. This project will significantly contribute to the complex challenge of CO2 reduction while improving energy efficiency, air quality and biodiversity. SEA’s strategic plan for rapid post-pandemic recovery focuses on environmental and sustainability-related transitions.
The partners chose the airport of Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (VINCI Airports’ centre of excellence for innovation) as the pilot airport, with the first installations as early as 2023.
The implementation of this project includes several phases:
From 2023: deployment of a hydrogen gas distribution station at Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport. This station will supply both the airport’s ground vehicles (buses, trucks, handling equipment, etc.) and those of its partners, as well as the heavy goods vehicles that drive around the airport. This first phase is essential to test the airport’s facilities and dynamics as a “hydrogen hub” in its reach area.
Between 2023 and 2030: deployment of liquid hydrogen infrastructures that will allow the provision of hydrogen into the tanks of future aircraft.
Beyond 2030: deployment of the hydrogen infrastructure from production to mass distribution of liquid hydrogen at the airport.
By 2030, the three partners will study the possibility of equipping VINCI Airports’ European airport network with the hydrogen production, storage and supply facilities needed for use on the ground and onboard aircraft.
“This partnership illustrates the partners’ shared commitment to decarbonising air travel and is a major step forward for the development of hydrogen across the airport ecosystem,” Airbus stated.
VINCI Airports has 45 airports in 12 countries, which will help create a robust supply network as this technology takes off.
During the Aviation Festival, London, Guy Johnson, News Anchor, Journalist and Aviation Enthusiast, Bloomberg, David Neeleman, Founder JetBlue, Azul and Breeze Airways, and Robin Hayes, CEO, JetBlue Airways, discussed what it takes to grow in new market conditions and build a more sustainable industry.
Neeleman explained the opportunities which inspired him to found Breeze Airways and launch during these challenging times for airlines. “I just saw trends that were developing in the United States, where the smaller and medium-sized cities you had to go through a hub on most all of these cities if you want to go anywhere. But, at the same time, the cities were growing. And especially in the post-COVID era, a lot of people want to go live in cities like these. They don’t really want to live in the big cities anymore. They can telecommute. So a lot of these cities are vibrant and growing, but they just lack air service. That affects the quality of life. Just for people to go to Florida or get to the mid-Atlantic region and different places they want to go, we can see that traffic.”
“..there’s a great market out there if you can do things that can simulate traffic with low fares and convenience for people to travel.”
As Neeleman elaborated, “If you go to a market and say five people are flying this route every day, can we take it to 100 people every day. We’ve seen that. We’ve seen some markets go up 20 times what the X-day was because of traffic stimulation. So we’re looking at 400 routes today. You know, when Ryanair started saying, ‘we’re going to go from 40 million people to 60 million people to 100 million,’ I thought that’s insane. But obviously, Wizz does it now. So, you know, there’s a great market out there if you can do things that can simulate traffic with low fares and convenience for people to travel.”
Hayes agreed. “To me, it made perfect sense because, with all the consolidation that’s happening over the years, so many cities have lost direct service. It’s all being hubbed. So here’s a business model that is almost infinite in size that allows an airline like David’s new airline, Breeze, to take advantage of that. I think it’s terrific, and I think it’s going to be a great success.”
“We’re going to see the actual effect on the planet. As we go ahead the next five years, ten years and 15 years, we can make adjustments.”
Johnson also asked the CEOs about the ambitious sustainability commitment the airline industry had made for 2050, net-zero carbon emissions, and whether it was achievable. “I think so,” Neeleman replied. “I mean, you look at what’s happened in technology over the last 25 years, and you project that ahead for the next 28 years, I think there’s no doubt that we’ll figure out how to solve this problem. And then, as we go along the continuum, there are a lot of other examples of cutting down carbon production. We’re going to see the actual effect on the planet. As we go ahead the next five years, ten years and 15 years, we can make adjustments.”
Hayes noted that airlines must remain financially sustainable while meeting climate sustainability targets. “I think airlines are going to have to—in addition to solving the segment sustainability challenge—they’re going to have to figure out ways of making money doing it. But again, the industry has shown so much creativity over the years in doing that.” Hayes said JetBlue is looking for those opportunities through JetBlue Ventures. “For example, travel products—that’s going to do $100 million EBITDA next year. You know, it was pennies on the dollar just literally two or three years ago. Airlines will have to figure out other ways to drive margins and revenue because I’m not sure consumers will accept higher fares. Why? Because at the end of the day, it’s going to, it’s still going to be a very competitive industry. You’re going to have airlines like David’s Breeze starting up. You’re going to have low-cost carriers growing. You’re going to have JetBlue and airlines like JetBlue, right. All of us will still build a business model around low fares. So, to sit there as an airline and say, ‘I can get higher fares from this in future because there’ll be a willingness to pay,’ I don’t think we can make that assumption. Certainly, the challenge I set out for our team to accomplish this goal. I want to protect margins, and I don’t want to increase fares doing it. Now, some would look at that and say, ‘You can’t do all of that.’ But I think we have to think big and think outside the box to find how we can do all of those things at the same time.”
“For example, in the US, at the moment, is I think there’s a great opportunity for sustainable aviation.”
Hayes also said that these airline sustainability targets would need broader support than the airlines alone. “I think that the industry has to demonstrate a global commitment to this, right? Because governments get the upper hand when they can quite rightly point to a problem. We must take a leadership position now. Where I think governments can help is by providing an incentive. For example, in the US, at the moment, is I think there’s a great opportunity for sustainable aviation. Still, it needs some form of tax incentives that allow producers—allows people—to make investments. There’s lots of money out there. The banks and other financial institutions want to point at sustainable technologies. So the money’s there, but you’ve got to create an incentive structure that allows that pick-up in demand in the early days.”
“This industry has shown a remarkable ability to adapt; whether fuel prices are $50 or $100, airlines have figured out that they can make money.”
Hayes continued, “This industry has shown a remarkable ability to adapt; whether fuel prices are $50 or $100, airlines have figured out that they can make money. We are used to very big swings in energy costs…I mean, look at how much efficiency and how much cost airlines have taken out during COVID… We’ve already gone through a lot before, yet we could do more. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. We will have to get very creative in driving other revenue streams. You know, at JetBlue, we’re talking about all these people flying on vacation. We’ve got a very little share of wallet beyond their flight. That should be relatively straightforward to convince people to spend more money with us. Now we’re able to drive support. You know, we’ve got a much higher revenue stream for the same capital base. That’s going to help fund some of these sustainability investments.
By Marisa Garcia
Keynote JetBlue and Breeze Fireside Chat: What will be the longer term effects of the last 2 years and how can we effectively respond to rebuild a more sustainable industry?