Alaska Airlines recently released a sustainability report the airline calls the Alaska Care Report 2021. The report goes into great detail about how Alaska Airlines is attempting to reduce its environmental footprint, from cutting CO2 emissions to using boxed water instead of plastic water bottles to enhanced flight planning.
More environmental distribution of water
Alaska Airlines leaders saw an opportunity to do good for the natural environment and also reduce the weight carried by each aircraft. Carrying more weight requires more thrust, and therefore requires more fuel, which costs a substantial amount of money and adds to the CO2 produced by the flight.
So Alaska Airlines decided to start pushing a #FillBeforeYouFly campaign, complete with gifting aviation geeks with a water bottle at San Francisco International Airport last October. Alaska Airlines ‘Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of external relations, said back in a 2019 statement that,
“If just 10% of us flying Alaska bring our own prefilled water bottles when we fly, it would save over 700,000 plastic water bottles and 4 million plastic cups per year.”
Then in November 2021, Alaska Airlines went to 100% boxed water. According to the statement issued then, the boxed water is packaged in recyclable, “… 92% plant material sourced from sustainably harvested trees. Even the resealable cap comes from leftover materials in the paper-making process.” Furthermore, pivoting to boxed water does eliminate 1.8 million pounds of plastic waste.
Working to reduce emissions
Page 17 of the Alaska Airlines Care Report 2021 about reducing climate impact of flights.
Infographic: Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines has enacted several ideas to reduce carbon emissions, with a focus on reducing fuel burn, as the airline says,
“About 99% of our core climate impact is created by our use of jet fuel.”
For instance, Alaska Airlines has placed winglets on almost of all of its 737s to cut fuel burn. In fact, the MAXs that Alaska Airlines is buying all have split winglets. According to Boeing,
“In addition to the inward, upward and slightly forward lift components of the upper aerofoil, the new lower aerofoil generates a vertical lift component that is vectored away from the fuselage, and also slightly forward. Working together, these provide the perfectly balanced winglet that maximizes the overall efficiency of the wing. “
Alaska Airlines also has operating procedures that include using ground power at airport gates instead of the onboard Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and taxiing with one engine when practicable to reduce fuel burn.
But this is not all of what Alaska Airlines is doing to reduce core climate impact. For instance, elsewhere in the report, the airline notes it is partnering with ZeroAvia for cleaner regional air travel using hydrogen fuels. Then there’s Alaska Airlines’ investment in Sustainable Aviation Fuel …
Alaska Airlines and Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is a clear passion of Alaska Airlines, as seen in this infographic of page 18 of their 2021 Sustainablity Report.
Infographic: Alaska Airlines
In the Alaska Airlines 2021 sustainability report, Alaska Airlines made the candid admission that,
Aviation is a difficult sector to decarbonize, and while multiple strategies are needed on this path, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) is the most significant decarbonization lever for the next few decades. But current SAF availability is less than 1% of total fuel demand, and the cost is three to five times more than conventional jet fuel. Scaling this market requires concurrently addressing price and volume through multiple strategies to grow availability and commercial viability of SAF
Better flight planning with Flyways
Infrographic about how Flyways AI Platform has impacted Alaska Airlines’ efficiency and reduced its climate impact.
Source: Alaska Airlines
Ultimately, burning less jet fuel is less climate impact. So Alaska Airlines is partnering with Airspace Intelligence’s Flyways to optimize routes. Already Flyways has optimized 10% of flights, avoided over 17,300 tons of CO2 expenditure and saved a net of three minutes per flight. It’s quite the artificial intelligence setup as, per the Airspace Intelligence website, it will facilitate the transition from “What is happening right now?” to “What is going to happen?”.
Other airlines’ sustainability strategies
Alaska Airlines is not the other airline that cares about sustainability. As per a recent interview with Southwest Airlines’ Vice President Supply Chain Management & Environmental Sustainability, Stacy Malphurs – Southwest Airlines aims to replace 10% of jet fuel use with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030. There is also an “Aviation Climate Task Force” working to decarbonize aviation by sharing best practices.
Air France is another airline deeply committed to sustainability. For instance, Air France – like Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines – is buying newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft. Air France also wants aa 30% reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger / km compared to 2019 levels by 2030, and has a commitment to sustainable aviation fuel use. Finally, Air France and Alaska Airlines share a commitment to reducing waste products, but for Air France it’s eliminating 90% of single-use plastics compared to 2018 by 2023 plus managing food waste.
Even low-cost carrier (LCC) Ryanair has a sustainability plan that it is carrying out. For Ryanair, it’s not just sustainable aviation fuel but also purchasing more 737 MAXs – just like Alaska Airlines’ strategy. Ryanair also wants a Single European Sky (SES) to decongest European skies and reduce the need for fuel burn.
This is not an exhaustive list of airlines working on sustainability, but hopefully shows similarities to Alaska Airlines’ sustainability strategy in the aviation industry. But as can be seen above, Alaska Airlines is having remarkable success with their sustainability strategy. It’s also worth noting that at a time of fuel prices going up, every pound of jet fuel not burned saves the airline money – which means lower fares for passengers.
What aviation sustainability strategies excite you? Let us know in the comments.
Source: Airspace Intelligence
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