A Better Flight Plan

Industry Insights

Flying Greener – On Earth Day and Every Day

Did you know the U.S. airlines improved their fuel efficiency by 120% between 1978-2013? That has saved 3.6 billion metric tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road each year! And they did this while carrying nearly 290% more traffic. That’s why the U.S. airlines account for only 2% of the nation’s man-made carbon emissions, while driving 5% of its GDP.

We are proud to celebrate Earth Day today and every day, as our member airlines are committed to environmental responsibility all year long.

Airlines are implementing programs and procedures to fly more direct routes, using electronic manuals for flight crew and applying paint schemes that minimize heat absorption and require less energy to cool the aircraft. Airlines are purchasing new or retrofitting current aircraft with winglets and other environmentally friendly materials, and developing alternative jet fuels to further reduce emissions and promote energy independence for the United States.

Our members are doing big things to help protect the environment! Here are just a few examples – click on the links to learn more from each carrier:

  • Between 2011-2013, Alaska Airlines saved 24 million kBTU, which is enough electricity to power 680 homes for a year.
  • By using iPads instead of paper manuals, pilots at American Airlines have helped reduce aircraft weight, saving 400,000 gallons of jet fuel annually.
  • Through the Aircraft Carpet Recycling Program, Delta Air Lines has recycled 363 tons of worn aircraft carpet since 2011. They also worked with the Nature Conservancy to create a carbon calculator for passengers to calculate and work to offset the carbon impact of their trip.
  • FedEx launched a program for sustainable operations called EarthSmart. Since launch, they have shipped more than 300 million envelopes and invested in projects to offset the associated carbon — more than 150,000 metric tons.
  • In 2012, Hawaiian Airlines earned the first-ever, aviation-based carbon credits, through the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions with the use of an eco-friendly engine washing technology.
  • JetBlue Airways has partnered with Carbonfund.org since 2008 to offset more than 350 million pounds of CO2 emissions. What’s more is that they are offsetting all CO2 emissions from scheduled flights from April 1-30, 2015!
  • Southwest Airlines is flying the Southwest Green Plane, a designated test environment for the latest eco-friendly cabin materials and customer comfort products to minimize waste and reduce impact on the environment.
  • By switching to a new recyclable hot cup, United Airlines avoids sending more than 207,000 pounds of non-biodegradable materials to landfills, equivalent to an estimated 4-metric-ton reduction in CO2 emissions.
  • In 2012 and 2013, UPS planted more than 1.3 million trees around the world as part of their Global Forestry Initiative.
  • Since 2006, all maintenance paperwork for US Airways has been scanned and captured electronically rather than being stored in paper form, which helps recycle about 30 tons of paper per year in the maintenance division alone.

You can help too! Here are some tips for green travel.

  • Pack light.
  • Download your airline’s smartphone application and use the mobile boarding pass instead of printing out a paper ticket.
  • Bring an empty reusable water bottle with you through security and fill it up on the other side at a water fountain.
  • Use refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles instead of purchasing travel size toiletries for each trip.
  • Pack snacks in resealable containers to save both money and waste while on the go.
  • Read books and magazines on your mobile device, tablet or e-reader to help reduce paper waste and lighten your load on the plane and use less fuel.


Photo credit: Denver International Airport

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