Reducing plastic usage and adopting environmentally friendly materials is not enough to tackle sustainability issuesAirlines must take all possible actions to ensure passengers do not choose alternative transportAirlines risk passengers jumping to more environmentally friendly options
By forging meaningful partnerships that address root causes, airlines will give themselves the opportunity of becoming environmental leaders within their industry. Reducing plastic usage and adopting environmentally friendly materials is not enough to tackle sustainability issues, and more must be done.
Travelers are increasingly likely to be influenced by how environmentally friendly a product or service is, with industry’s Q1 2021 Consumer Survey revealing that 76% of global respondents are ‘always’, ‘often’, or ‘sometimes’ influenced by this factor, as well as how ethical/socially responsible a product or service is.
To acquire the knowledge and skills to tackle the bigger issues, airlines could acquire a stake in a company working in the area of sustainability or form strategic partnerships. In the same way that Delta Air Lines acquired an oil refinery in 2012 to gain security over its fuel supply, airlines should seek to do the same with biofuel companies. easyJet partnered with Wright Electric in 2017 to develop an electric aircraft capable of flying short distances. Wright Electric has the expertise to make it happen, and easyJet has a vested interest in the concept becoming a reality.
To combat the flight shaming movement, airlines must take all possible actions to ensure passengers do not choose alternative transport, especially on short-haul routes. As electric rail travel becomes more popular – with extensive networks across Europe and Asia – airlines risk passengers jumping to more environmentally friendly options. If progress to make the airline industry greener is slow, then the impacts could be far-reaching.
Many airlines have launched carbon offsetting schemes, reduced plastic usage, and worked to become more environmentally friendly, but these small wins are not enough to tackle the broader problem. Investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and alternatively powered aircraft are the next steps, and meaningful partnerships will be key to making these concepts a reality.
IAG recently committed to 10% SAF usage by 2030. With the scale of an airline group such as IAG, the investment in a dedicated facility would be wise. It would give security over supply and may allow commitments to be exceeded. Investments like this could be the way forward creating a win-win situation for any airline looking to address travelers’ concerns about air travel’s sustainability and future-proof their operations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed airlines and industry stakeholders to take a step back and focus on initiatives to accelerate the progress currently being made to make aviation greener. With travelers more likely to switch to alternative, greener transport options on short-haul routes, airlines must seek collaborative partnerships to make further progress in this space and protect their future.