Undoubtedly, COVID is the dominating topic for many airlines at the moment. Nevertheless, the sustainability aspect is also —still— at the agenda of many airlines. With this article, we put together four sustainability trends airline will focus on in 2021.

Airline Sustainability Trends

Airline Committed To A Sustainable Recovery Says IATA

Just in October 2020 —at the beginning of the second Corona-wave— IATA published an important message: “Despite the crisis facing the global aviation industry, its commitment to pursuing sustainability remains strong.” In detail, this means cutting aviation-related CO2 emissions in half by 2050.

Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, added: “COVID-19 has devastated the aviation industry. But we are working hard to reconnect the world safely and sustainably. We’re committed to pushing ourselves, our partners, and governments to achieve our carbon targets in a green recovery.

In order to achieve the above, airlines have to push sustainability and drive an eco-friendly recovery. Undoubtedly, there are hundreds of action items airlines have to implement. Nonetheless, we talked to industry experts and collected four sustainability trends airlines will focus on in 2021.

Airline Sustainability Trend #1 — Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)

Sustainable aviation fuel is produced from feedstocks, agricultural residues, algae, waste oils, and even carbon. Currently, there are various forms of SAF available. However, most often in relatively small quantities. Alaska Airlines, SAS, or KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are some of the forerunners in that context.

As stated by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), SAF can have up to 80% fewer GHG emissions than traditional fuels throughout their life cycle. Nonetheless, worth mentioning that it all depends on two aspects. First of all, it is about the composition of SAF itself. Second, blend-level with conventional fuel is crucial.

Recently, much promising news hit the bulletin:

Therefore, we are convinced that SAF will play a significant role in airlines sustainably in 2021 and beyond.

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    Airline Sustainability Trend #2 — More Efficient Aircraft

    Indeed, this is not a new trend. On the contrary, airlines have been aiming for more efficient aircraft for many decades. Nevertheless, every crisis holds a chance. In that context, COVID could actually accelerate the usage of more efficient aircraft.

    First, some carriers plan to invest in new and more efficient aircraft despite COVID-19. Predominately, many cargo airlines announced the acquisition of new aircraft. FedEx and UPS are just two examples in that context. Moreover, just recently, Delta announced a $1 billion investment in more efficient planes and carbon offsetting measures this year. 

    Second, and due to the decreased demand, airlines can mothball older, less efficient aircraft and focus on their efficient fleet. This wasn’t possible in pre-COVID times due to the immense need and market growth. Airlines were literally forced to use every aircraft that was available — efficient or not. Therefore, and without praising COVID-19, the pandemic will have a positive effect on airline sustainability.

    Airline Sustainability Trend #3 — The Rise Of e-Fueling

    Though it has been around for some time, e-Fueling is still gaining ground at airlines. E-Fueling digitizes all fuel-related operational processes of airlines and further stakeholders. Thereby, airlines will achieve a whole bunch of benefits in terms of sustainability. Most notably in that context is the digitization of the entire paperwork necessary every time a plane touches and refuels. From fuel order to receipts and invoices, e-Fueling makes going paperless as quick and painless as possible. 

    Again, COVID-19 accelerates this initiative. Due to its digital nature, e-Fueling also eliminates verbal and physical interactions — something every airline is aiming for in times of a pandemic. 

    According to Information Design, a provider of e-Fueling solutions, the demand has grown massively since the pandemic outbreak. Especially large carriers, such as Lufthansa, Swiss, or Cathay Pacific, pushed the implementation.

    Airline Sustainability Trend #4 — Carbon Offsets

    Carbon offsets are a tool many airlines will (continue to) focus on in 2021. Carbon offsets can help airlines implementing new techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of direct operations.

    What’s a carbon offset in detail? In easy words, it’s an investment to compensate for emissions. One of the most popular carbon offset investments is tree planting. It —approximately— takes about 15 trees to offset 1 tonne of carbon.

    Some several companies and institutions help airlines to compensate for emissions. Additionally, some airlines are setting up their programs in that context.

    Always happy to get your feedback and opinions! Leave a comment below, hit me up on Twitter, or get in touch on LinkedIn.

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    Benjamin is an information-enthusiast, a content-maniac, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions with the aim to change the way companies use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry, and working with renowned companies all over the globe.