The aviation industry must do more to demonstrate its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, according to its leaders.
During last week’s World Aviation Festival in London, airline bosses talked of some of the steps already taken as well as plans moving forward.
Air France chief executive Anne Rigail says that the flight shaming campaign has shone a critical light on the industry for not promoting its efforts enough.
“We have reduced carbon emissions by 20% since 2011. Of course we have to deliver a new roadmap but we have many action plans already in place - reduction of weight, renewal of the fleet… Each new production aircraft has 20% less carbon emissions so if we go faster it is the best answer.
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“We’ve also reduced weight on board. Water onboard is optimized per route and our pilots choose the best routes helped by artificial intelligence.
“After landing we cut an engine and we try not to use the APU at all on the ground. We have electric engines on the ground and digital press on board because it is not as heavy as paper.”
Rigail went on to talk about further measure but also said there was no “magic solution” and that the industry had to collectively work towards green air transport.
“We have to communicate. It’s not useful to have public opinion against the business. Transition needs money and the money is in the business.”
Other aviation bosses were also quizzed about sustainability during the event.
Leaders must lead
IATA chief executive and director general Alexandre de Juniac says that passenger surveys reveal 45% do not want to stop flying.
He adds that an additional 45% want to be reassured that the industry is acting on their concerns and 10% want change.
“Outside nobody is aware that this industry started to do 10 years ago in terms of the environment.”
He stresses that the industry’s commitment to carbon neutral growth by 2020 and a 50% drop in emissions by 2050 would be achieved despite the industry’s growth trajectory.
“It’s possible provided everybody does a job. There’s a strong conviction from aviation leaders that we are part of the planet and it is of economic interest, otherwise our license to grow is at stake.”
Aircraft engine manufacturers came up for some criticism from Emirates CEO Sir Tim Clark who calls them “slightly complacent” for not applying advanced technology sooner given the order they had on the books.
“They had the technology but did not start employing it until airlines started putting enormous pressure on them driven by the cost of fuel.”
He adds that composite technology is now being applied to wings and fuselage as well as adaptation of engines for “hotter working conditions.”
And, he says the industry is 50% more fuel efficient than it was 30 to 40 years ago.
“For me, the most important thing in environmental campaigns was awareness of mankind of the need to do something. When you see shaming of flights, it’s saying do you need to travel?
"It’s not saying we should stop flying on high frequency airlines, they have revolutionized the industry. But there is an issue, and I understand if you ask us what are your environmental priorities and how are you executing that in your product.”
World Aviation Festival 2019
We interviewed execs from across the aviation landscape, including airlines, manufacturers and tech vendors, during the three-day event.