As the effects of climate change continue to impact the planet, businesses across the world are seeking ways to become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprints. One of the biggest industries focused on this mission is aviation, as jet fuel is a major contributor to carbon emissions. Fortunately, there are many ways the aviation industry is overcoming these challenges to create a more sustainable future.
Shrinking Jet Fuel’s Carbon Footprint
Some carriers are working to execute on and track operational initiatives to reduce jet fuel consumption and improve emissions intensity. For example, Delta’s Carbon Council is charged with managing fuel burn and driving reductions in fuel consumption through cross-divisional collaboration and aims to establish a trajectory of reductions in fuel consumption to progress toward medium- and long-term sustainability goals. To effectively drive further improvement in fuel efficiency, the Carbon Council is supported by strategic working groups consisting of a handful of business units each for focused collaboration on specific initiatives. Each working group can spearhead progress in its dedicated area while identifying opportunities and roadblocks to communicate to the executive leadership team. The Carbon Council’s executive leadership team plans to meet regularly to guide decision making and drive continued progress on fuel reduction initiatives
Introducing New Aircraft Materials
Ongoing initiatives that contribute to fuel savings are key to meeting climate goals. As part of these initiatives, some airlines are installing split-scimitar winglets to make aircraft more sustainable. This aerodynamic enhancement improves fuel efficiency by reducing lift-induced drag. For this fleet type, these winglets are expected to yield an annual fuel savings of 8M gallons.
Incorporating Dry-Wash Technology
As the aviation industry evolved, many airlines are now using a chemical dry wash in place of wet washing. According to Cathay Pacific, dry washing saves up to 90 percent of water required to wash an aircraft. Washing aircraft is essential, as flying accumulates dirt which makes the aircraft heavier and less aerodynamic. This leads to consuming more fuel, one of the biggest contributors to the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.
Utilizing Paperless Communications
Paperless communication is key to sustainable initiatives. There are a handful of ways airlines can utilize paperless communications across the travel journey. For instance, one airline has been partnering with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to offer paperless mobile check-in for domestic travel since 2008. With this offering, travelers can save time, enjoy a more seamless travel journey and assist with reaching sustainable goals. To utilize paperless boarding, customers download the boarding pass to their mobile device, TSA scans the electronic pass and checks their ID and customers may proceed to their departure gate where they will show the pass before boarding.
Adopting Plastic Alternatives
Reducing the usage of plastic makes an enormous impact on the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. By refreshing onboard product offerings, one airline is expected to reduce onboard single-use plastic consumption by approximately 4.9 million pounds per year. The airline is achieving this by replacing or removing plastic items onboard, serving more sustainably packaged beverages like canned wine, reducing plastic water bottles by 50 percent and introducing proprietary bedding made from 100% recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate).
There are many ways the aviation industry can make a positive impact on the journey to sustainable flight. As airlines across the globe continue on this path, we expect to see even more innovations and strategies that minimize waste, maximize the value of materials used and reduce carbon footprints. A carbon-neutral aviation future is possible, and we’re eager to see how airlines around the world implement their goals and commitments.
Delta Air Lines: Building a Sustainable Future for Flight
Delta is investing $1 billion towards a sustainable future for flight. From fuel-efficient aircraft to eco-conscious onboard products, the airline is dedicated to working toward net-zero aviation.
Here are a few ways Delta is making progress toward this ambitious commitment:
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
Jet fuel is the No. 1 contributor to Delta’s carbon footprint and the chief focus of their efforts to reduce emissions and manage our environmental impact. Delta’s aims to replace 10 percent of its jet fuel refined from fossil fuel with sustainable aviation fuel by the end of 2030. The company is currently executing industry-leading sustainable fuel agreements with corporate customers.
SAF Corporate Agreements
Delta offers global, industry-leading options for companies and institutions to contribute to the usage and development of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This allows companies to maximize their own sustainability goals.
Shrinking Jet Fuel's Carbon Footprint
In 2020, Delta retired more than 200 aircraft and are replacing them with aircraft that are 25 percent more fuel-efficient than the models that are being replaced. In 2021, Delta concluded a 5½ year project to reduce the fuel burn of their 737-900ER fleet in support of Delta’s broader environmental sustainability goals. All 130 Delta 737-900ER aircraft are now equipped with split-scimitar winglets.
Delta is also participating in the rollout of streamlined landing procedures at some of our key hubs. In LAX, Delta is utilizing “EoR,” which is an improved, instrument approach system that allows ATC to clear aircraft for landing with shorter flight paths. This system takes advantage of the FAA’s NextGen airspace modernization initiative and can shorten flight times by 3-5 minutes. By reducing overall flight time, this system drives both fuel savings and can help customers reach their destination more quickly. This system could drive an estimated one million gallons in fuel savings annually at LAX alone once fully utilized.
Delta partners with Someone Somewhere to provide hand-woven amenity kits from over 250 Mexican artisans. In 2021, Delta worked to improve the environmental impact of kits by eliminating five single-use plastic components such as zippers and packaging.
New Aircraft Materials
In 2021, Delta concluded a 5½ year project to reduce the fuel burn of their 737-900ER fleet in support of Delta’s broader environmental sustainability goals. All 130 Delta 737-900ER aircraft are now equipped with split-scimitar winglets. This aerodynamic enhancement improves fuel efficiency by reducing lift-induced drag. For this fleet type, these winglets are expected to yield an annual fuel savings of 8M gallons.
Delta works with airports to recycle at as many locations as possible. As well, Delta supports sustainability onboard with offerings like bedding made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, reusable and biodegradable service ware and premium canned wine. Together, the products will reduce onboard single-use plastic consumption by approximately 4.9 million pounds per year.
Delta offers paperless communications via the Fly Delta app. In addition to staying up to date with relevant news and alerts, travelers can access paperless boarding passes for a more seamless and more sustainable journey. This app houses important information like international travel requirements, flight notifications and more. With this app, travelers can also book flights, track bags, make upgrades and find the best ways to navigate the airport.
Net Zero Strategies
Delta is setting science-based targets to achieve net zero GHG emissions no later than 2050. The airline is also working to improve emissions intensity no later than 2035, compared to a 2019 baseline.
Zero-Waste Sky Clubs
All Delta Sky Clubs use eco-friendly packaging for packaged foods. Most Clubs also have limited plastic products and have switched to either eco-friendly supplies or reusable service ware. Minneapolis−Saint Paul, Seattle-Tacoma, and San Francisco International Airport Clubs aim to be zero-waste, which is defined as 90% landfill diversion. These Clubs recycle, compost and provide eco-friendly food service items
To learn more about the ways Delta is working toward carbon neutrality, visit delta.com/sustainability.