We want as many people as possible to enjoy the benefits of air travel. But we accept that there is an environmental impact of aviation, which we want to reduce.
We work with stakeholders across the air transport industry towards ambitious targets: carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and cutting carbon emissions 50% by 2050 (compared to 2005).
New technologies have an important role: more efficient and lighter planes as well as sustainable aviation fuels will eventually help cut emissions by 80%. We also campaign to optimize air routes and avoid congestion around airports, obliging aircraft to stay in the air until a landing slot is available. And we help airlines manage their environmental impact by reducing noise and waste.
And finally, we support offsetting, a system that allows a company to compensate for its emissions by financing a reduction in emissions elsewhere. Currently, airplanes have no choice but to use liquid fuels. But through offsetting, we can pay for emissions to be reduced in other parts of the economy.
Do you want to know more about how airlines address environmental challenges? See our Environment section. And check out the frequently asked questions below.
Frequently Asked Questions
I want to do my bit for a sustainable future. Should I fly less?
Aviation accounts for 2% of global carbon emissions, but supports 3.5% of global GDP and 63 million jobs. So the question is, would stopping flying be the best way to reduce emissions, while safeguarding our way of life? Everyone has to make their own choice. As an industry, we can point to a track record of reducing emissions per passenger that goes back to the beginning of jet flight. And we were the first global industry to set tough carbon targets, wiht our objective to reduce our emissions 50% by 2050.
It is also worth noting that about 80% of aviation's CO2 emissions occur on flights over 1,500 km, where there is no other transportation alternative.
Some biofuels are bad for the environment. What are you doing about that?
First-generation biofuels had a poor reputation but these have not been used for aviation. And airlines are committed to use sustainable aviation tuels that conserve an ecological balance by avoiding the depletion of natural resources. See this resolution about sustainable aviation fuels from our 2017 Annual General Meeting.
You can therefore fly on biofuel flights in confidence that the source of the fuel is absolutely sustainable.
How is it credible that you will be able to reduce your emissions 50% while still allowing flying to grow?
The aviation industry is already exceeding the first of its carbon targets – to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5% per year to 2020. And it is on track to deliver carbon-neutral growth from 2020. We believe we can also cut 50% of our emissions by 2050.
But it will require a huge effort from aviation and governments. It is not only about more efficient airplanes: we need governments to encourage investment in sustainable fuels, and to improve air traffic control efficiency, to name just two examples.
DID YOU KNOW?
Biofuels - or Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) are a real alternative to jet fuel. In February 2008, a Virgin Atlantic B747 made history by being the first airplane to fly on a blend of jet fuel and SAF on a flight between London and Amsterdam. In 2017, 100,000 flights flew on SAF. Today, we aim to fly 1 billion passengers on sustainable fuels by 2025.
And of course, sustainable aviation fuel does not mean palm oil and deforestation. We aim to only use sources that conserve an ecological balance and avoid the depletion of natural resources.
Find out more about what biofuels are made of in this 3 min podcast.