How airlines go green?

How airlines go green?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming increasingly important in business. The airline industry, being highly concentrated, aims to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage and remain viable. Particularly, after the recent credit crisis that has caused airfare prices to decline significantly, airlines need to act responsibly and convince their customers that they really care for the environment.


Although cars and trucks are typically to blame for their gas emissions and their detrimental impact on the environment, airlines are also to blame. Although aircrafts are extremely efficient while in high altitude, they burn up about 85 percent of their total fuel during take-off. The increase in carbon dioxide emissions is the result of the increase in passenger and freight travel. In other words, if the aircraft is full, it will burn more energy because it will be heavier.


Because the engines for most commercial aircrafts are huge, their re-engineering for improved carbon emissions is a process that requires systematic efforts, time and money. Yet, in the context of corporate social responsibility, airlines have taken action.


Major airlines (British Airways, Continental Airlines, Qantas Airways, Japan Airlines and many others) have launched a carbon-offset program that allows passengers to offset the carbon dioxide emissions caused by their flights. Passengers calculate the per-passenger emissions per flight and buy carbon dioxide credits that are invested in a variety of environmental projects such as grants for renewable energy sources, tree-planting projects and improvements to energy efficiency. Airlines are active in promoting the carbon-offset program through press releases, magazine articles and emails to executive club members. One hindering factor has been the rise in fuel prices that has put off passengers from paying for additional costs.


The high costs of fuel and gasoline have forced airlines to employ the mass transit system. In fact, mass transit can demonstrate improved fuel efficiency and its usage increased since the hike in gasoline prices. Besides, studies suggest that there is an inverse correlation between energy consumption per capita and urban population density as far as public transportation is concerned. This can reduce travel distances and fuel consumption. By applying this concept in an airline, not only it makes air travel more affordable, but it is also environmentally friendly. It’s actually like breaking down the airplane in smaller airplanes, all going the same direction.


Northwest Airlines does not use spoons in its in-flight meals suggesting that the aircraft becomes lighter if 400 passengers of a jumbo jet are served three meals during a flight with fewer cutleries. Other airlines are using lighter catering trolleys, remove in-flight magazines, put duty-free catalogues onto the seat-back televisions and load less water (both bottled and in the tank). They do anything to make the airplane lighter.


Aircraft seats are also expected to be up to 30% lighter than the current ones, made of composite replacing aluminium. Besides, the shields for the in-flight televisions are made of reinforced carbon fibre, which reduces their weight by 50%.


The airline industry is constantly looking for ways to intensify the use of alternative carbon-free bio-fuels, aiming to account for up to 6% of the industry total by 2020. In this effort, there are also challenges faced, deriving mainly from the political environment of the airlines. There are many different views on climate change as well as different levels of awareness surrounding the topic, leading to different views in regards to necessary action.


The fact that aircrafts contribute to environmental pollution has forced air carriers to find ways to become environmentally friendly, while maintaining their market share and profitability. Major airlines have accepted to make efforts towards the reduction of their emissions after being pressurized by civil society and political groups. From one side, increased passenger traffic and freight travel leads to increased profitability. On the other side, their public image is far more important if they seek to be leading players in a highly concentrated industry.


Christina Pomoni has acquired her MBA Finance from the American College of Greece. Her advanced familiarity with financial statement analysis, capital budgeting and market research has been acquired through her professional career at high-esteemed organizations. As part of her long journey, Christina has served as an Equity Research Associate at Telesis Securities (EFG Eurobank) and a Financial & Investment Advisor at ING Group. Besides, having lived at Chicago, IL, Boca Raton, FL and Paris, France has helped her, not only to be a successful professional, but mostly to see life under a more creative and innovative perspective. Since 2005, Christina provides high quality writing services to numerous websites and research companies contributing her knowledge and expertise. Her areas of specialization are Business, Finance & Investment, Society, Politics & Culture. She also has a very good knowledge of Entertainment, Health & Fitness and Computers & Technology. Christina currently designs the website of her own writing company. Believing that knowledge is the road to opportunity and development, her mission is to promote her already established knowledge to a growing number of visitors and to provide high quality writing services to meet the most demanding customer requirements.