These Aviation Companies and Organizations Are Addressing the Environmental Impact of Air Travel Head On
From installing solar panels at airports to developing an all-electric light aircraft, these Global Vision Awards honorees are challenging the aviation industry to do better.
The Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards aim to identify and honor companies, individuals, destinations, and organizations taking strides to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices, and experiences. Not only are they demonstrating thought leadership and creative problem-solving, they are taking actionable, quantifiable steps to protect communities and environments around the world. What’s more, they are inspiring their industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.
In recent years, there has been a significant push to make the aviation industry greener and develop strategies for reducing its impact on climate change. Luckily, some are thinking outside the box about what sustainable air travel can look like, whether it be developing more efficient fuels and engines or addressing energy use in their ground operations. Read on to learn more about three Global Vision Awards honorees making a difference in how we fly. —T+L Editors
The dream of affordable, sustainable passenger aviation came just a bit closer to reality last summer when this Israeli start-up secured the first commercial order for its new all-electric, nine-seat plane, from U.S.-based Cape Air. When delivered in 2022, the nine-seaters from Eviation will replace Cape Air’s aging, gas-guzzling Cessna 402s, the workhorses of a fleet that serves 35 cities, mostly in the Northeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. Thirty minutes of charging gives the aircraft (dubbed “Alice”) enough energy to fly for an hour, giving it a range of about 650 miles. Reducing damaging emissions also comes with significant benefits for the bottom line: it costs airlines only $200 per flight hour to operate an Alice, compared with about $1,000 an hour for a conventionally fueled turboprop.
With air travel accounting for 2.4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today, many carriers have acknowledged their adverse environmental impact in recent years. None have gone as far as JetBlue in mitigating their carbon footprints. Since 2008, the airline has offset more than 1 million metric tons of CO2 — about the amount produced by 217,000 cars annually. In an unprecedented move, the airline says it will offset all of its domestic flights beginning in July, and flights out of San Francisco will soon use a biofuel-kerosene blend that could cut emissions by 80 percent. But JetBlue’s focus extends beyond commercial air travel. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, it sent hundreds of relief flights to the island carrying emergency supplies and volunteers. The airline also partnered with World Central Kitchen to deliver drinking water, food, and other supplies to the island and, after last year’s Hurricane Dorian, to the Bahamas.
Airports Authority of India
While airport operators can do little about airlines’ carbon emissions, they have more control over what happens on the ground, which makes the Airports Authority of India’s green initiatives noteworthy. Five years ago, Cochin International Airport (COK), the busiest in the southern state of Kerala, became the world’s first entirely solar-powered airport. And COK’s innovation has sparked similar initiatives throughout the 126-airport AAI system.
Three years ago, the solar grid came online at Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU), India’s fifth-busiest and the largest managed by AAI; the grid provides all the electricity needed in CCU’s passenger terminal. Similar projects are in process or have already been completed at more than 30 airports in India. AAI’s greenification efforts aren’t limited to power generation. The department has systematically converted airport lighting, both indoor and outdoor, to low-consumption LEDs, and single-use plastics, including straws, cutlery, and water bottles, have been banned at about half of its airports.