Etihad Airways has followed the lead of the owner of British Airways and Iberia by committing to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050. In addition, Etihad says it hopes to halve today’s existing carbon emissions within 15-years as it introduces a raft of more environmentally friendly initiatives.
In 2018, Etihad reduced it’s carbon emissions by as much as 148,000 tonnes – the equivalent of 1,236 flights between Abu Dhabi and Barcelona. To achieve this, Etihad made visible and not so visible changes like swapping aircraft carpets for a lighter option, reducing catering from 100 per cent loading to actual passenger loads and replacing seats on short-haul aircraft with a slimline alternative.
“The global focus on the environment and the urgency of reducing carbon emissions has never been greater,” explained Tony Douglas, the airline group’s chief executive.
“Airlines have attracted significant scrutiny in the global discussion of the environment, and our collective challenge as a fast-growing industry is to deliver meaningful initiatives which can quickly help to contain and reduce carbon emissions,” he said.
Despite a growing ‘flight shaming’ movement that is credited with actually reducing the demand for aviation in Sweden, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the number of passenger journeys will more than double within 20 years.
To reduce emissions still further, Etihad will be taking delivery of more fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners, including another to be delivered later this week. At some point, Etihad also confirmed that it plans to formally take delivery of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft – currently the most fuel-efficient widebody aircraft in the world.
Etihad has ordered a total of 20 A350’s and Airbus has already built four of the planes for the Abu Dhabi-based airline but they remain in storage owing to financial issues. While they sit idle, Etihad has not yet indicated when its fuel-inefficient A380 superjumbos may eventually be retired.
Meanwhile, Etihad has teamed up with aircraft manufacturer Boeing to create its “Greenliner” initiative which has turned a regular 787 Dreamliner into “flying laboratory for testing procedures and initiatives that could further reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.”
With an Etihad 787 already painted in a special Greenliner livery, it still remains to be seen how many meaningful improvements will follow the marketing hype.
More immediate and concrete measures, however, include reducing the use of single-use plastic by 80 per cent within two years and ongoing work to create a sustainable and scaleable bio-fuel programme.
Last October, International Airlines Group (IAG) became the first airline group in the world to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The group, which owns British Airways and Iberia, as well as Vueling and Aer Lingus is also working on its own sustainable aviation fuel programme which will be powered by household and airline catering waste.
Outgoing Emirates President, Sir Tim Clark recently said he was ‘woke’ to the new environmental focus in the airline industry but he remains sceptical about emerging sustainable aviation fuels.
To ring in the new year, British Airways also started to carbon offset all of its domestic flights, a measure that Air France also introduced on its own domestic services at the same time.