With the Paris Climate target of reducing carbon dioxide by 40% before 2030, we have to start flying less. We will not meet this goal if we continue to fly on the same foot. Another objective of the Paris Climate that has been created in 2015, is that the earth can’t heat up more than 2 degrees. This means that we have to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide, doing so by among others using the plane less. Also, other measures can be taken into account when you really do have to fly.
Worldwide’s cleanest airline companies
The Atmosphere Airline Index (AAI) has created a list with the 150 biggest airline companies, ranked by level of sustainability. The AAI takes the following things into account in ranking: efficiency of fuel usage based on passenger capacity, number of seats available in the aircraft and the type of aircraft. Below you can find a list of the 10 most clean (sustainable) and most unsustainable airline companies, based upon the AAI list. Besides the names, you can find the worldwide energy label radiating from A until G, whereas A is the cleanest and G the least clean.
- TUI Fly – category B
- Aegean Airlines – category C
- Air Europa – category C
- Air Transat – category C
- Jet2.com – category C
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – category C
- Transavia – category C
- Aer Lingus – category C
- Air Arabia Maroc – category C
- EasyJet – category C
The least clean airlines
- Emirates – category E
- Etihad Airways – category E
- Korean Air – category E
- LOT Polish Airlines – category E
- Qatar Airways – category E
- Royal Air Maroc – category E
- Swiss International Airlines – category E
- Royal Jordanian Airlines – category F
- Singapore Airlines – category F
- Kenya Airways – category G
Explanation of the scores
According to the AAI researchers, the high position of TUI Fly is among others determined by the consistency and efficiency of the flights. TUI Fly only flies with high capacity, meaning that most of the seats are occupied during the flight.
The reason why Kenya Airways is at the very bottom is that they have a lot of beds in the aircraft. Kenya Airways flies with mainly modern aircraft where luxury wins over sustainability. Because of the number of beds, the number of seats occupied is not maximized. In addition to that, they occupy on average only 145 of the 189 seats for shorter distances.
The list of the AAI also reviewed in which way and to what extent airlines are involved in environmental pollution change. This is mostly why quite unexpectedly EasyJet ends up in the top ten. EasyJet makes usage of environmental employees, while for instance the biggest competition of them, RyanAir thinks this is nonsense. Nevertheless, in the full report of the AAI can be read that EasyJet does offer extreme cheap flights and also promotes customers to buy them. Indirectly, these budget companies could, therefore, create more CO2 emissions.
Why no airline has made it to category A
The AAI report does not include the emission of other toxic gasses that enhance the carbon footprint. Usually, the carbon footprint for airline companies is based upon the amount of CO2 released, while other gasses like Methane and laughing gas also enhance the Greenhouse effect. Therefore, the report cannot be seen as a complete leading wire. However, in general, it is a fact that modern aircraft produce less toxic gasses that enhance the Greenhouse effect on opposite of old ones. Since the AAI report is based upon modern aircraft, it is a quite fair one to indicate the greener airlines.
Quite frankly, no airline makes it to category A. The categories are measures by the Atmosfair: a German company that tests the CO2 emissions. The reason why no airline company had been labeled by A is probably just a tactical game from Atmosfair; it pushes airlines to do better.
Tips to fly greener
For now, most of the airline companies have not been changing their policies much in order to reduce CO2 emissions and carbon footprint. Nevertheless, the airline companies also don’t have much chose when it comes to reducing carbon footprint. Kerosene does produce CO2 and there’s not much to change about that. However, as a traveler, there’s much you can help to reduce carbon footprint caused by airline companies.
Use as little as possible the airplane
Yes, of course, everyone wants to have a vacation at least once a year and usually travels by plane. Also, businessmen and women who are flying for their job don’t seem to have better options. However, when you do fly, choose wisely. Pick an airline that uses modern planes and don’t go for the cheap thrill. For instance, longer distances usually have stopovers, which makes it cheaper. However, this is worse for the environment because most CO2 emissions get released during take-off and landing. Therefore, if the environment really matters to you, choose a direct flight which is, of course, a bit more expensive but you’ll be a greener passenger.
A second tip regarding this topic is to use the airplane less is to set out goals for your vacations or travels. For instance, if a person that is living in The Netherlands wants to see whales, it can go to Norway. Whereas that person also could go to New Zealand, only this is way worse for the CO2 emissions. Flying once to New Zealand releases as many CO2 emissions as flying eight times to Norway.
Choose an airline company with an environmental certificate
Besides looking at the airline companies that have been ranked by cleanness by the AAI, you could also look into companies with an IEnvA certificate. This is a certificate granted by the IATA Environmental Assessment. A program that is designed to assess and improve the management of environmental issues by different airlines.
Choose airlines that use biofuel
More and more airline companies are carrying out tests for alternative usage of kerosene. A lot of airline companies are looking into using biofuel, or are actually using it. Biofuel is the collective name of certain (natural) products that can be used for fuels. For instance, biofuel can be made out of plants such as the oil of palm trees or corn. Other alternatives can also be the usage of garbage from fodder, old frying fat or algae. The reason why not all airline companies are using biofuel is that it’s relatively more expensive. Therefore, companies that are using biofuel are mostly the bigger ones such as KLM, Lufthansa, Continental Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Offset you carbon emissions
Did you know that there’s several sites that offer carbon offsetting? They will calculate your flight’s carbon emissions and find a project to offset those emissions with. For example, by planting trees or investing in renewable energy. There’s even a site that combines flight booking and carbon offsetting, called FlyGRN. When you’ll book a flight there, they will (partially) offset your carbon emissions with the revenues they receive for selling flights.