British Airways Just Flew Its First Carbon Neutral Passenger Flight
Using a combination of sustainable aviation fuel, offsets, and emissions-reducing measures like switching to half-power during taxiing, according to the airline the carbon-neutral flight — dubbed "The Perfect Flight" by the airline — took off from Heathrow Airport at 10:36 a.m. local time on Tuesday and arrived in Glasgow just under an hour later.
It was British Airways' first passenger flight to be powered directly by sustainable aviation fuel, which is blended at 35% with traditional jet fuel.
"This flight offered a practical demonstration of the progress we're making in our carbon reduction journey," British Airways' Chairman and CEO Sean Doyle said in a statement. "This marks real progress in our efforts to decarbonize and shows our determination to continue innovating, working with Governments and industry and accelerating the adoption of new low carbon solutions to get us closer still to the Perfect Flight of the future."
The flight was operated on an Airbus A320neo, which the airline said burns 20% less fuel, and had lighter seats, lighter catering carts, and digital flight manuals and inflight magazines to reduce weight. Additionally, the aircraft was pushed back with electric vehicles, only one engine was used for taxiing both before takeoff and after landing, and weight and wind data was used to create the most efficient route.
The remaining emissions were offset, according to British Airways. In total, British Airways said the flight used 62% fewer CO2 emissions than a similar flight path the airline flew in 2010 to Edinburgh.
Carbon offsets is a somewhat controversial practice where companies purchase carbon credits (think: planting trees) to balance the emissions they expend during operations. Several airlines have committed to offset their carbon emissions in recent years, including Delta, JetBlue, Qantas, and Air France.
British Airways has also committed to offsetting emissions and hopes to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to the airline.
The airline industry is not alone in its efforts to become carbon neutral. Last year, the Ford Motor Company committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, and even luggage company Paravel has gotten in the green spirit by promising to offset the carbon emissions of its Aviator Grand checked suitcase.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.