Aviation Industry: Frontiers in sustainability – ET TravelWorld

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By Anand Yedery

In the last few years, sustainable living has piqued the interests of many and rightly so. With the world battling through climate change, industries, corporates and even consumers are increasingly becoming aware while embracing the motto of becoming more eco-friendly or going green. Being part of not only the aviation industry but also the travel fraternity, it is humbling to see millions of eco-conscious travellers adopting and wanting the industry to adopt a positive environmental response when it comes to climate change. Fortunately, stakeholders across the aviation industry – airlines, airports as well as trade bodies like International Air and Transport Association (IATA) have commenced taking the necessary steps, especially with the continuous demand for travel even post-covid. While the aviation industry currently contributes to less than 3 per cent of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions, the share of emissions is projected to increase as passenger numbers double to 8.2 Billion by 2037. As an industry, we recognise our responsibility to lead the charge towards sustainable aviation and have incorporated sustainability as a key focus area.

However, making air travel more sustainable is not simple and comes with a price. Yet airlines continue to invest in sustainable strategies that not only mitigate the impact they have on the environment, but also conversely aid them to streamline their operations and form the basis for a resilient business in the future.

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Highlighting the increased demand for travel in the backdrop of eased restrictions, Akshita Bhanj Deo talks about the new world order that should be driven by mindfulness, conscious living with an affordable cost that is curated and tailor-made. She also believes that governments, destinations, and tourism businesses, especially small businesses must understand these key trends – the ongoing need to feel safe and the growing desire to travel differently and planning for next crisis to keep the travel industry thriving.

Investing in Sustainable Aviation Fuel and modern fleets
The aviation industry largely relies on using the traditional fossil-derived jet fuels for its operations. With longer flight durations and increase in fuel surcharge, there has been an exponential rise in not only the operating cost for an airline but also the end customer. The industry is actively making its way to using fuels made from renewable sources of fuel – Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). In fact, IATA has identified Sustainable Aviation Fuel as one of the key elements in helping achieve reduced carbon emissions. As per IATA’s report, over 450,000 flights have taken to the skies using Sustainable Aviation Fuel and 50 airlines have experience with Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel is key to decarbonising operations over the next few decades. Numerous airlines have committed to using and investing in companies producing Sustainable Aviation Fuel. We have had a head start in this space with our investment with Fulcrum BioEnergy and a recent agreement with Aemetis to purchase Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Additionally, we are committed to using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for 10% of our total fuel consumption by 2030.With airlines across the globe adopting similar measures along with investing in technologically advanced and fuel efficient fleets, a collaborative approach to ramp up sustainable development are clear signals of the industries’ determination to achieve net-zero emissions in the coming years.

Fly Greener through carbon-offset programmes
With lockdown and quarantine measures in place, the last two years made travel impossible. Hence with the travel restrictions gradually being lifted a new term was coined – “revenge travel”, travellers making up for lost time by travelling more often as well as cashing into their extra savings that they set aside during the pandemic. What also changed during post the pandemic was the impact COVID-19 had on consumer attitudes towards travel. A 2021 study done by Mastercard found that 58% of respondents are now more aware of their environmental impact. Additionally, 62% said it is now more important that companies behave in an eco-friendlier way. Travellers are reassessing their flying habits and are also seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint when they do take to the skies, including paying an optional surcharge to offset their carbon emissions. The wider industry realises this shift as more travellers are thinking of ways to reduce their carbon footprint and are looking to support responsible travel, without compromising their experience. For instance, Google Flights and many metasearches show a carbon emission estimate based on a flight search results, whereas closer to our industry, airlines are encouraging travellers to offset their carbon-emissions.

Customers can choose to make an impact by paying a nominal fee to offset their carbon emissions through the airlines carbon-offset programme. Airlines too are looking at newer and innovative ways to encourage customers by attractive flight deals and complimentary carbon offset. In 2021, we were able to offset 7,320 tonnes of carbon emissions from over 6,500 journeys purchased from our website during a Green Friday campaign and also offered our customers the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets based on their travels.

Implementing the three R’s in aviation
Waste minimisation and implementing the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle has been actively spoken across various stages of our lives. The same mantra holds true for the aviation industry. In 2018, the industry generated a total of 6.1 million tonnes of cabin waste. As per the IATA, the number is expected to nearly double. Passengers as well are concerned about the impact of single-use plastics on the environment. To circumvent these issues, the industry has been exploring viable alternatives and working closely with suppliers and non-profit organisations to offer products that are sustainably sourced to minimise the impact on the environment. Providing passengers with quality, sustainably designed, inflight items reduces the environmental impact and helps to meet the growing expectation from passengers regarding waste and resource use. Airlines have been focusing on reusing, reducing and recycling inflight products to avoid waste altogether. From pledging to remove single-use plastic from base lines to utilising reusable cutlery as well as using plastic alternatives for straws and stirrers are some of the initiatives the airline industry is adopting.

Travelling sustainability is now becoming a global reality, through a collaborative effort, the industry and travellers alike can make positive an environmental, economic and business impact, thus ensuring future generations can experience the joy of travel while making the planet a better place.

The author is the Regional Head of Sales and Marketing (South Asia, Middle East and Africa), Cathay Pacific.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETTravelWorld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETTravelWorld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.

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