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Air Transport Management Master

master msc air transport management

In this article we are going to review different issues that will make us have a global vision of air transport management from the perspective of sustainability.

History of air transport (brief introductory approach)

The first demonstrated flight to take place was on June 4, 1783, when the Mongolfier brothers took off in a hot air balloon in Annonay France. In the 1800's, Sir George Cayley became the first person to successfully create a human carrying glider. He was also responsible and credited with being the first person to explain the aerodynamic forces of flight weight, lift, drag and thrust and their relationship.

Fast forward to the 1900's. On December 17, 1903 the first sustained and controlled "heavier then air" powered flight took place with the Wright brothers. In 1907 development work began on the Gnome rotary aero engine and in 1908 the first Gnome rotary aero engine is produced. August 1909, the United States government bought its first airplane (Wright Model A) for $30,000. In 1912 the first all metal aeroplane was flown by a French man and in 1913 the first flight to reach an altitude of 20,000 feet was flown.

In July of 1940 the first airliner with a pressurized cabin, the Boeing 307 Stratoliner, entered service with Transcontinental Airways on the New York to Burbank in California route.

After World War II (around 1947) jet propulsion, aerodynamics, radar technology catapulted the aviation industry, which made aircraft larger, faster and featured pressurized cabins.

Growth of the aeronautical industry

Aviation provides the only rapid worldwide transportation network, generating economic growth, creating jobs, and facilitating international trade and tourism. Aviation has become the enabler of global business and is now also being recognized by the international community as an essential enabler to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The aviation sector is growing fast and will continue to grow. The most recent estimates suggest that demand for air transport will increase by an average of 4.3% per annum over the next 20 years. If this growth path is achieved by 2036 the air transport industry will then contribute 15.5 million in direct jobs and $1.5 trillion of GDP to the world economy. Once the impacts of global tourism are taken into account, these numbers could rise to 97.8 million jobs and $5.7 trillion in GDP.

By mid-2030s no fewer than 200,000 flights per day are expected to take off and land all over the world. Imagine the first video again – but with twice as much traffic! These figures are dazzling and reflect a dynamic sector - which is great. And this growth is not limited to passenger traffic. We anticipate that cargo traffic in terms of tonnage – to continue to grow along a similar curve.

But the growing demand for air traffic also involves challenges, not least of which are the important logistical implications in and around airports to ensure the infrastructure is able to support this growth. The main question revolves around how we can achieve growth in a responsible and therefore sustainable way.

As the industry plans to support a near doubling of passenger and cargo numbers by 2036, demand for pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and other aviation-related jobs is expected to rise dramatically. What is also certain is that innovations in technology and approaches will be needed to sustain this growth.

The effects of aviation on climate change

Petroleum products are the dominant fuel source for transportation with road transport accounting for 75% of total energy use by the transport sector. This dependence on fossil fuels makes transport a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Because of structural shifts in the economy, from agriculture to industry to services (a sector that includes transportation), transportation related CO2 emissions are growing in both absolute and relative terms. Burning fuel in engines produces gaseous and aerosol products, some of which are unavoidable products of combustion such as CO2 and water vapour. NOx, volatile hydrocarbons (VOC) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions depend on combustion characteristics whilst others such as sulfur dioxide, SO2, are dependent on the fuel composition. Here we will focus mainly on emissions of CO2, NOx and SO2 which produce the largest changes in atmospheric composition and climate due to the transportation sector.

The impact on the atmosphere differs however between these species. CO2 is a well-known greenhouse gas with a long atmospheric lifetime (~100-1000 years), whereas NOx has a much shorter lifetime in the atmosphere (hours to a day, depending on location.

Under typical tropospheric conditions, NOx emissions increase the production rate of O3 and enhance the removal mechanism of CH4, both strong greenhouse gases. Sulphur contained in the fuel is rapidly oxidized to SO2 and then SO4, the result forming sulphuric acid aerosols.

These particles have a strong direct effect on radiative forcing by enhanced scattering of the incoming solar radiation (cooling) and they also alter ozone chemistry in the stratosphere through heterogeneous processes. There is a further impact from aerosols, the indirect effect, whereby aerosols modify the lifetime of clouds together with their microphysical properties.

The increase in cloud condensation nuclei and ice nuclei concentrations may lead to aviationinduced cirrus (warming) but large uncertainties remain in the level of scientific understanding associated with this process. For the purpose of comparison, the magnitude of road, rail, shipping and aviation emissions for the year 2000 are presented in Table 1. The non-transport sources represent bio and fossil fuel combustion, fossil fuel production, industrial processes and waste. Shipping sources represent both maritime and inland shipping. Rail includes bothdirect and indirect emissions (where indirect emissions occur as a result of electricity production for electrified rail transport). Within the transport sector the largest contribution to CO2 emissions originates from road transport with 4.2 billion tonnes. Emissions of CO2 from aviation are similar in magnitude to those from shipping, with these sectors accounting for an additional 663 million tonnes (shipping) and 675 million tonnes (aviation), which represents ~30% of the CO2 emissions from roads. The NOx emissions from aviation (2.8 million tonnes (NO2)) represent ~10% of the NOx emissions from roads (29.2 million tonnes (NO2)) and ~20% of those from shipping (15.5 million tonnes (NO2)). Emissions of sulphur are dominated by the shipping sector (8.72 million tonnes) due to the use of low grade fuel with high sulphur content. The contribution to sulphur emissions from road travel (1.9 million tonnes) is ~25% of that due to shipping, whilst aircraft SO2 emissions are almost negligible in comparison (0.09 million tonnes).

Transport sector emissions also differ by geographical region. Road transport emissions have a geographical distribution similar to non-transport related anthropogenic emissions (industry, household, agriculture) and are released often in already significantly polluted air over continental regions. In contrast, shipping emissions are often located within the relatively unpolluted maritime boundary layer. A small fraction of the aviation emissions occur in the vicinity of airports (13% for CO2 and 11.6% for NOx) and, as with road emissions, they become rapidly mixed with other continental anthropogenic emissions. The majority of aviation emissions are however located at cruise levels between 8 and 12 km in altitude. With an increased lifetime at high altitudes, NOx emissions from aviation can potentially have a significant impact on the distribution of ozone and methane at these altitudes.

What are the sustainable strategies to curb aviation emissions?

The global market-based measure adopted in October 2016 by the countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization will limit the net carbon emissions of international flights between participating countries for the years 2021-2035. The limit is initially set at the average of 2019-2020 levels. Provisions in the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, require evaluation of it every three years in view of the goals of the Paris climate agreement, offering the possibility of tightening the limit in the future. Separately, ICAO is conducting a review of aviation emissions in light of the Paris agreement.

If fully implemented, CORSIA could be a significant step forward for global climate action. It could prevent nearly 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere over the first 15 years of the program – more if ambition is increased by tightening the limit.

CORSIA affords airlines flexibility to choose how to cut CO2. They can:

  • Fly more efficient aircraft.
  • Use new technologies to set more efficient flightpaths and reduce delays.
  • Use sustainable lower-carbon alternative fuels.
  • Invest in emissions offsets within or outside of the aviation sector.

How is the climate change affecting the aviation industry?

There is justifiably a good deal of analysis and media coverage of aviation's impact on climate change.

Fewer column inches have been given to the impact of climate change on aviation.

The main expected impacts of climate change on aviation result from changes in temperature, precipitation (rain and snow), storm patterns, sea level and wind patterns. In addition, climate change is expected to lead to increased drought, impacts on the supply of water and energy, and changes in wildlife patterns and biodiversity. Consequences for aviation include reduced aircraft performance, changing demand patterns, potential damage to infrastructure, loss of capacity and schedule disruption.

According to a late 2018 survey by EUROCONTROL, a large majority of European aviation industry respondents (86%) consider that actions to reduce the impacts of climate change on aviation may be necessary now or in the future. However, almost half (48%) have not begun planning for adapting to the impacts of climate change.

There are strong operational, business and regulatory reasons for participants in the aviation industry to take steps to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Temperature change affects infrastructure, aircraft performance and demand patterns

Europe is experiencing climatic warming at a faster rate than the global average. It has been predicted that some parts of the continent could undergo temperature increases of 4C-5C by the end of the century under a high emissions scenario (according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC).

Even under the IPCC's medium emissions scenario, a minimum of 2C is expected for most of Europe. The strongest warming is expected in Southern Europe in the summer and in north eastern Europe and Scandinavia in the winter.

In addition to average temperature increases, climate change is leading to a greater range of extreme temperatures.

Increased temperatures have an impact on aircraft performance, for example reducing lift, and this has a knock-on effect on runway length requirements. Aircraft payload and range will also be affected.

Temperature change will have further impacts on infrastructure, such as heating and cooling requirements and heat damage to runways and taxiways.

Change in temperature can also be expected to change demand patterns, both seasonally and geographically.

Changed rain and snowfall patterns could increase delays and cancellations

Europe is expected to experience less rain in the south, but more in the north of the continent. Although snowfall is expected to reduce overall, there will be more heavy precipitation of both rain and snow.

These changed precipitation patterns will lead to delays and cancellations of flights. There are also likely to be increased incidences of flooding of airports and surface access. Changes to snow clearance and de-icing requirements could be a positive if there are fewer occurrences, but this could be offset if those occurrences are more severe.

More strong storms are expected, with increased disruption

As with all things related to climate change, but perhaps even more so, there is much uncertainty in the modelling of storms.

Nevertheless, an increase in the frequency of strong storms is expected, particularly in the autumn and winter on the North Atlantic and in northern and central Europe. In the Mediterranean, there may be fewer tropical-like cyclones, but their intensity may increase.

This will lead to delays, capacity reductions and cancellations, the rerouting of flights and a consequent increase in fuel burn, damage to infrastructure, and an increase in lightning strikes (with possible consequences for aircraft maintenance needs and costs).

Rising sea levels could reduce airport capacity and cause network disruption

As a result of climate change, sea levels in most of Europe are predicted to rise broadly in line with the global average over the longer term.

Under the IPCC medium to low emissions scenario, many parts of Europe are predicted to experience an increase in sea level of more than 0.4 metres by the end of this century (although in the northern Baltic region land is rising and so, sea level increase is reversing).

A rise of 1 metre would put 96 European airports at risk of inundation, according to the European Union Joint Research Centre.

In addition, there could be surges in sea levels resulting from severe storm events, although this is an area of significant uncertainty and regional differences.

Rising sea levels could lead to the loss of airport capacity, either permanently or temporarily, and consequent network disruption. Surface transport links to airports could also be affected.

Prevention of these impacts, such as via enhanced sea defences, airport relocation and the development of secondary airports, will mean increased costs. However, the longer timescales involved with expected rising sea levels allow more time to plan for the necessary actions.

Changing wind patterns could increase turbulence, affect journey times and cause disruption

There is some evidence to indicate that climate change is increasing the variability in the strength, position and shape of the jet stream. The jet stream is a strong westerly wind (i.e. blowing from the west) of up to 320km/h at an altitude of 5 to 7 miles above the earth's surface – a similar height to that of aircraft crossing the North Atlantic.

The jet stream is important for trans Atlantic flight planning, since it provides a tailwind for aircraft flying from North America to Europe and a headwind for those flying the other way. In addition, changes in the speed and pathway of the jet stream result in air turbulence for aircraft (changes in the jet stream also affect weather patterns below it).

A climate change-induced strengthening of the North Atlantic jet stream is expected to increase both the frequency and strength of clear air turbulence roughly twofold.

It is also expected to reduce eastbound journey times, but to increase westbound trips by a greater amount. This means a lengthening of the average round-trip journey time, a consequent increase in flight time, fuel burn, emissions and costs and challenges in terms of schedule planning, slot management and aircraft holding patterns.

Other expected wind-related changes resulting from climate change are shifts in the direction of prevailing winds and increased vertical wind shear. In addition, there may be increases in extreme wind speeds in the northern parts of central and western Europe, but possible decreases in southern Europe.

In addition to increased clear air turbulence and greater variability in trans Atlantic times and routing, the potential effects of changing wind patterns on aviation include crosswind impacts on airport capacity and operational disruption if winds are too strong.

The aviation industry needs to take actions to adapt to climate change

Clearly, participants will need to train staff in the use of meteorological data and in how to react during disruptions, and will need to increase the sharing of such data with other organisations. This will include greater use of onboard weather detection technology.

The industry needs to adapt schedules, both on a seasonal basis (to cope with changes in demand) and within each day (for example to ensure that larger aircraft can depart at cooler times). Cooling and heating requirements need to be considered in airport terminal design and surface material specifications need to be considered in runway and apron design.

In addition to actions that can be taken now, in all areas where climate change may adversely affect aviation more research is required. This is particularly so in the areas of changing prevailing wind patterns and technologies for the detection of clear air turbulence.

The details of the impacts of climate change on aviation are still fraught with uncertainties. However, it is accepted that the world's climate is changing, and this will undoubtedly pose significant challenges for the entire aviation industry.

The industry has a strategy to mitigate its impact on climate change, although more could be done. However, it currently has a less coordinated approach to mitigating the impact of climate change on aviation.

What is sustainability and what implications can it have in the airline industry?

Sustainability is a key topic at aviation industry conferences. After all, the airline industry is growing, not shrinking. According to an article in Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, “Over the past 50 years global demand for air travel has risen by 9 percent per annum (pa) and growth (at a reduced rate of 3-7 percent) is predicted for the next 20 years.”

Fortunately, obstacles tend to produce innovative solutions. As the travel industry explores sustainability, there are opportunities to choose greener solutions. Each step in “going green” offers the opportunity to anticipate consumer trends and be a leader in aviation sustainability and customer service. Each of these “green” trends contribute toward the greater good of environmentally sustainable travel and a safe planet.

From carbon offsets to reducing (or eliminating) single-use plastics, airlines are taking serious measures to address environmental concerns. In fact, Quantas CEO Alan Joyce, speaking at an IATA conference said that although the industry is taking seriously its responsibility with the environment, airlines should promote more all the efforts they are doing.

Flying isn’t likely to have zero emissions anytime soon but it can shrink its carbon footprint. Which of these trends for sustainability in the airline industry has your airline already adopted?

  • Reducing Fuel Consumption
  • Improving fuel efficiency is arguably a good way to reduce greenhouse gases and some airlines are doing this by reducing weight on the airline. Reducing single-use plastics and adopting biofuels are two ways to reduce fuel consumption on current aircrafts.

  • Biofuels
  • United Airlines made history in June 2019 by operating the most eco-friendly flight. According to a United press release, they accomplished this by “using a 30/70 blend of low-carbon, sustainable aviation fuel provided by Boston-based World Energy, and traditional jet fuel.” Biofuels are considered an effective sustainability practice. However, at the moment, they’re more expensive than traditional jet fuel.

  • Eliminating Single-Use Plastics
  • Some airlines are looking to changes in consumer’s buying habits and making adjustments such as dropping duty-free sales inflight. This reduces the need to carry extra inventory which lowers fuel consumption and speaks to the modern shopping habits of travelers.

  • Look Local for Food Service
  • Providing locally-sourced and seasonal foods reduces the carbon footprint of food transportation. While most lettuce that finds its way on airlines is shipped from California or Arizona to its departure airport, Singapore Airlines introduced a “farm-to-plane” concept on the world’s longest flight. A 40,000 square foot vertical urban farm, just 5 miles away in Newark, grows lettuce and baby greens for the 19-hour flight.

  • Carbon Offsets
  • Protecting old-growth forests and planting new trees helps protect the environment. So does investing in projects like wind farms that focus on renewable energy sources. Some airlines offer options for passengers to purchase carbon offsets. United Airlines, for example, has partnered with Conservation International to advocate for nature-based solutions to climate change.

  • Educate Passengers
  • Not all passengers are as aware of their environmental options as others. Flying economy rather than business class and packing lightly are two ways to directly contribute to sustainability in the airline industry because a lighter plane usually means less fuel consumption.

  • Contribute to Sustainable Tourism Not Only During the Flight.
  • Airlines also have the opportunity to help their customers consider the impact of overtourism and find alternative eco-friendly experiences that help them travel like locals and contribute to the communities economy. For example, airlines can offer ways to filter local up-to-date events and attractions on the ground. Some of these will be carbon offsetting experiences with a smaller ecological footprint. Flea Market in New York, special bike tour around Mexico City, Rural local experience in Japan, no matter where they’re going, airlines have the opportunity to be more than a transportation provider.

  • Bonus tip: Communicate your commitment with sustainability
  • A good example of communication of their sustainable efforts was carried out by Iberia Airlines in the last edition of FITUR. Iberia used sustainability as the main theme for their 2020 stand which was plastic-free and built entirely out of paper. During the show, the carrier also detailed some of the actions and initiatives carried out by the company: from fleet renewal and low-consumption engines to recycling at all levels.

Airlines who can help people travel in a more conscious way and even travel to more “out-of-the-way” destinations, will attract happier and loyal customers. Sustainability in the airline industry takes planning, but it’s possible.

What are the three pillars of sustainability?

Sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It has three main pillars: economic, environmental, and social. These three pillars are informally referred to as people, planet and profits.

Economic viability

The economic pillar of sustainability is where most businesses feel they are on firm ground. To be sustainable, a business must be profitable. That said, profit cannot trump the other two pillars. In fact, profit at any cost is not at all what the economic pillar is about. Activities that fit under the economic pillar include compliance, proper governance and risk management. While these are already table stakes for most North American companies, they are not globally.

Sometimes, this pillar is referred to as the governance pillar, referring to good corporate governance. This means that boards of directors and management align with shareholders' interests as well as that of the company's community, value chains, and end-user customers. With regard to governance, investors may want to know that a company uses accurate and transparent accounting methods, and that stockholders are given an opportunity to vote on important issues. They may also want assurances that companies avoid conflicts of interest in their choice of board members, don't use political contributions to obtain unduly favorable treatment and, of course, don't engage in illegal practices.

It is the inclusion of the economic pillar and profit that makes it possible for corporations to come on board with sustainability strategies. The economic pillar provides a counterweight to extreme measures that corporations are sometimes pushed to adopt, such as abandoning fossil fuels or chemical fertilizers instantly rather than phasing in changes.

Environmental protection

The environmental pillar often gets the most attention. Companies are focusing on reducing their carbon footprints, packaging waste, water usage and their overall effect on the environment. Companies have found that have a beneficial impact on the planet can also have a positive financial impact. Lessening the amount of material used in packaging usually reduces the overall spending on those materials, for example. Walmart keyed in on packaging through their zero-waste initiative, pushing for less packaging through their supply chain and for more of that packaging to be sourced from recycled or reused materials.

Other businesses that have an undeniable and obvious environmental impact, such as mining or food production, approach the environmental pillar through benchmarking and reducing. One of the challenges with the environmental pillar is that a business's impact are often not fully costed, meaning that there are externalities that aren't being captured. The all-in costs of wastewater, carbon dioxide, land reclamation and waste in general are not easy to calculate because companies are not always the ones on the hook for the waste they produce. This is where benchmarking comes in to try and quantify those externalities, so that progress in reducing them can be tracked and reported in a meaningful way.

Social equity

The social pillar ties back into another poorly defined concept: social license. A sustainable business should have the support and approval of its employees, stakeholders and the community it operates in. The approaches to securing and maintaining this support are various, but it comes down to treating employees fairly and being a good neighbor and community member, both locally and globally.

On the employee side, businesses refocus on retention and engagement strategies, including more responsive benefits such as better maternity and paternity benefits, flexible scheduling, and learning and development opportunities. For community engagement, companies have come up with many ways to give back, including fundraising, sponsorship, scholarships and investment in local public projects.

On a global social scale, a business needs to be aware of how its supply chain is being filled. Is child labor going into your end product? Are people being paid fairly? Is the work environment safe? Many of the large retailers have struggled with this as public outrage over tragedies like the Bangladesh factory collapse, which have illustrated previously unaccounted for risks in sourcing from the lowest-cost supplier. (For more, see: "Go Green With Socially Responsible Investing.").

Sustainable development goals in aviation

sustainable development goals in aviation

The global aviation sector has a role to play in 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, some in small ways and others with much more significant influence.

SDG 1: No Poverty. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Although air transport has a limited role to play in helping those living under extreme poverty, improved connectivity helps build economic development which in turn lifts standards of living. Aviation creates jobs in the industry directly, as well as in other sectors indirectly, providing jobs for 65.5 million people worldwide. It is also estimated that 57% of international tourists travel to their destination by air, helping to support employment in the tourism industry. Remittances (money sent home to developing countries by citizens working overseas) account for vital foreign income in many states. The World Bank estimates around $429 billion was sent in remittances in 2016. The links home are made possible through rapid air transport.

Examples of action

Turboprop aircraft manufacturer ATR prides itself on the versatility of its aircraft to reach remote communities, opening up routes that are not suitable for larger jet engines, but vital for the people that need air services. The Virgin Atlantic Foundation invests in communities in Africa, India and China through the WE villages programme, where they invest in long-term development to alleviate poverty. Brussels Airlines has set up the, which focuses on alleviating poverty in Africa. The Emirates Airline Foundation is a non-profit charity organisation which aims to improve the quality of life for children, regardless of geographical, political, or religious boundaries.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Aviation transports perishable agricultural products every day. In addition, aviation supports the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to areas devastated by natural disasters and war, through the World Food Programme and other charities. Aviation has a unique ability to move essential supplies over vast distance quickly.

Examples of action

The UN World Food Programme coordinates the UN Humanitarian Air Service to transport vital food supplies quickly and safely to areas struck by war or natural disaster. Brisbane Airport contributes to support the OzHarvest project, which collects unwanted food from Australian organisations, including leftover food produced by airlines, and donates it to those in need. The Airbus Foundation partners with humanitarian organisations, such as Action Against Hunger and the UN World Food Programme, to deliver food aid to areas hit by famine.

SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

A key focus in this SDG for most modes of transport is around safety. Aviation has a strong track record, developing a robust safety culture that has extended throughout the industry. Whilst we can never relax in this area, it is something that the whole aviation community can be proud to support. In addition, by building on its speed advantage, aviation promotes access to vital medical care through the use of air ambulances in remote communities and transporting time-sensitive medical supplies, such as vaccines. Aviation also plays a major role in disaster relief.

Examples of action

The Norwegian government operates an air ambulance programme, which provides vital access to healthcare for those in remote areas of the country. Airlines are often used to transport organs for transplants. In Brazil, an alliance of airlines and medical organisations coordinates this programme. Cargo airlines are used to transport time-sensitive vaccines, which must be stored in specific conditions. In 2012, UPS transported 375,000 vaccines to Laos. The GMR Group, which operates Indira Gandhi International Airport, conducts a number of health-based initiatives in India through the GMR Foundation, such as its HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. Phoenix Air developed an aircraft quarantine system to transport aid workers infected by Ebola from Western Africa to the United States for treatment.

SDG 4: Quality Education. Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.

Aviation enables the movement of students worldwide, providing access to educational opportunities which can be particularly relevant for students from countries in special situations. The industry itself also champions quality education for its own employees, specifically in areas such as engineering, air traffic management and pilot training. The manufacturing sector in particular is working hard to promote education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Examples of action

ITAérea is the first business school worldwide specialized in airport and aeronautical management in terms of number of students, headquarters and professors. ITAérea is strategic partner of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the International Training Centre for Authorities and Leaders in Mérida, Mexico (CIFAL) and aims to foster the development of training for worldwide managers of the air transport sector. Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer saw the need for improved childhood education in its home town of São José dos Campos. It established Juarez Wanderley High School which provides full-time, free, high-quality instruction to 600 less-privileged students per year coming from the local public schools. Pratt & Whitney Canada works in partnership with 20 Canadian universities and funds over 200 research projects. Hong Kong Airport is currently setting up an Aviation Academy, which will welcome its first batch of students in 2017. Boeing in the UK has built up an extensive relationship with academic institutions, which not only helps develop new technologies, but also provides training for existing employees and creates opportunities for students to join the company.

SDG 5: Gender Equality. Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.

Aviation is working to achieve gender balance across the sector however, the industry is aware that work is still needed to encourage balance in technical areas such as engineering and flight crew. More work needs to be done to encourage interest from young women to join technical areas and men to join frontline staff.

Examples of action

Ellas Vuelan Alto is a Spanish association whose mission is to act for the benefit of the consolidation of the visibility of women in the aerospace sector in Spain, encompassing the political, university, business and administration fields, based on the vision of equality of the United Nations Magna Carta. Alaska Airlines promotion of diversity, including the Forum for Engaging Men, Advancing Women programme, which brought together leaders from a range of industry segments to share candid dialogue about what men can do to support and advance women in the workplace. The International Aviation Women’s Association exists to promote air transport management as a career choice for women, and support their advancement in the industry. Air India and Vistara Airlines in India have both started offering woman passengers special services to ensure they are free from harassment. The services, which include a woman-only row of seats or no middle seating for female passengers have proved popular amongst customers and are not charged for. GE Aviation has a specific programme of action called Cultivate to develop and retain women engineers in the business. Already, a 50:50 gender parity has been reached in the engineering development programme. Airlines such as British Airways are ensuring that gender equality is one of their central aims in promoting diversity among the workforce, particularly in leadership positions. easyJet has set a target of having 20% of new pilot cadets be female by 2020, a significant increase on the current figure of 6%.

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

This is not an area usually identified as a major impact for air transport, although like any industry aviation must be mindful of water use, particularly in water constrained areas. However, water availability may constitute a significant restriction on growth if it is not managed in a proactive way. A large number of airports have robust water management plans.

Examples of action

Hong Kong Airport uses a ‘triple water system’ prove the efficiency of its three major water sources: freshwater, seawater and treated wastewater, which has helped the airport reduce its freshwater demand by 50%. Airports Council International North America has developed best practice guidelines for airports to reduce water consumption. Around half of US airports already have water conservation programmes in place. Emirates Airline uses a ‘drywash’ technique on its fleet which saves 11.7 million litres of water each year, whilst improving the aerodynamic performance of its aircraft (reducing fuel burn). Canberra Airport has published an extensive Water Management Plan, which addresses issues relating to stormwater, groundwater and recycled water. Oslo Airport conducts environmentally-friendly deicing operations, by using non-toxic deicing fluid for aircraft and additive-free organic salt for the runways and taxiways.

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

The aviation industry is working hard to develop sustainable aviation fuels, as well as deploying renewable energy at airports. In recent years, the aviation industry has made substantial progress towards developing sustainable alternative fuels. These fuels can be up to 80% less carbon-intensive than traditional fossil-based jet fuel. The progress is encouraging, but the industry is aware that more work needs to be done if alternative fuel is to make up a significant share of the fuel supply.

Examples of action

Over 100 airports worldwide now utilise solar energy to power their operations. Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport has instituted a policy of encouraging the uptake of low-emissions vehicles by giving priority to eco-taxis. Airlines worldwide have joined together to form the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), which aims to promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels Meanwhile, the US government and aviation industry CAAFI partnership promotes the widespread adoption of this new energy source for the sector. Helsinki Airport is using renewable diesel to power its ground vehicles.

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

As well as providing skilled and often high-value employment opportunities, aviation supports some key areas of economic development through the connectivity it provides. This includes transporting around a third of world trade by value and 54% of global tourists.

Examples of action

French aerospace manufacturer, Safran, has been running operations in Mexico for over 20 years, providing jobs and supporting economic growth in the country. Engine manufacturer, Rolls-Royce, is investing in a new facility in Bangalore, India, which will employ 500 people by the end of 2017. Honeywell Aerospace launched a $100 million investment fund in May 2017 aimed at supporting technology start-ups, mainly in the aerospace field. Canadian aircraft manufacturer, Bombardier Aerospace, operates a manufacturing facility in Morocco, creating jobs in the country.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Aviation is one of the most innovative industries in the world. The manufacturing sector is continually developing new technology and creates significant urban infrastructure through the building of airports, as well as air traffic management. Aviation has always been a driver of innovation. Each new generation of aircraft is 15-20% more fuel efficient than the generation it replaces, but more comprehensive partnerships between commercial manufacturers and governments on research and development (R&D) are needed if this progress is to be built on.

Examples of action

Boeing and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) have announced an agreement to expand their joint technology research centre in China. Aerospace manufacturers, such as Airbus and Boeing have been at the forefront of additive layer manufacturing (otherwise known as 3D printing). According to the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the value of airport infrastructure in Canada was collectively $59 billion in GDP in 2015 Airbus Group has started the ‘Airnovation Summer Academy’, which aims to foster innovative talent by presenting participants with real-world aerospace problems to solve. Airbus also runs the BizLab, which invites start-ups to showcase their ideas, with the prospect of investment from Airbus.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. Reduce inequality within and among countries.

The connectivity provided by air transport reduces inequality between countries, as well as individuals, through creating trade links and providing access to goods and services for those in remote communities. The democratisation of air travel has also meant that air services are available to more people than ever. Aviation-supported tourism can also have a vital role to play and is notable for the opportunities it can offer for economic activity at a local level, including high proportions of women and youth participation .

Examples of action

ATNS, the South African air navigation service provider, runs a bursary programme for trainee air traffic controllers, addressing inequalities in education. Airways New Zealand runs the First Foundation scholarship, which funds young people with limited financial resources to attend university for four years. It is open to students intending to study a career in engineering from disadvantaged areas. Brisbane Airport has published a guide for people with dementia using their facilities. This guide, developed with researchers, helps make the journey through the airport less intimidating and Cork Airport has developed a guide for people with autism to help them and their families prepare for the airport experience. ICAO launched the ‘No Country Left Behind’ initiative to assist States that continue to face challenges developing aviation policies, plans and programmes.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Aviation-related infrastructure is a major part of urban and rural communities worldwide and contributes to the connectivity of populations through integrated transport links. More work is needed on multimodal transport development.

Examples of action

The Port of Seattle collaborates with airlines, service providers, and the local community to reduce emissions and improve air quality. Manchester Airport has developed an overarching Sustainable Development Plan, with a significant section concentrating on access to the airport. By encouraging more use of public transport from the city to the airport to support a transport network that is efficient, convenient, reliable and safe.

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Due to international laws, not all waste generated on flights can be recycled – much of it must be destroyed for quarantine reasons – but the industry is working on ways to change this. Airlines and manufacturers work closely together to responsibly dispose of aircraft at their end-of-life. When compared to other industries, aircraft manufacturers operate relatively clean operations with limited consumption of water and CO2 emissions.

Examples of action

Galapagos Airport’s terminal is made from 80% recycled material from the old terminal and the structure that supports the new building was constructed from recycled petroleum exploration pipes, which were recovered from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Nearly every major aircraft and engine manufacturer is part of the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association. These industry leaders have shown their commitment to end-of-life issues by joining and/or getting accredited by AFRA. Auckland Airport has worked with Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Government to implement an innovative cabin waste recycling programme that diverted over half the waste from landfill and also complies with the country’s strict quarantine laws.

Air France-KLM is working to minimise waste throughout the supply chain with an eco-design approach.

SDG 13: Climate Action. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

All sectors of the aviation industry have agreed on a robust strategy for reducing CO2 emissions and are making excellent progress working towards three global climate goals. In October 2016, the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) successfully agreed on the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which will enable the industry’s shared goal of carbon-neutral growth. In the long-term, aviation aims to halve its net CO2 emissions by 2050, using 2005 as the baseline. This will be achieved through the development of new technology, commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels and more efficient navigational infrastructure.

Examples of action

The entire aviation industry has agreed on a climate action plan for the short, medium and long-term. Each new generation of aircraft is on average 15-20% more fuel efficient than the generation it replaces. Airports Council International (ACI) runs the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, which certifies airports on carbon reduction efforts. Oslo Airport, operated by Avinor, became the first airport to offer sustainable aviation fuel to all airlines.

SDG 14: Life Below Water. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Whilst life under the ocean is not an area of primary influence for air transport, there are some locations where airports are built into the sea, with inevitable impacts on sea life. Moreover, aviation connects tourists to destinations that rely heavily on healthy marine ecosystems to drive economic growth.

Examples of action

Kansai International Airport in Japan was built on an artificial island in the harbour to reduce noise for local communities. As part of the airport’s development, special concrete walls were installed which encouraged the growth of seaweed to provide a suitable environment for sea life. Auckland International Airport in New Zealand is built on the shores of Manukau Harbour and the airport has a comprehensive system to clean the stormwater from its entire property before it enters the waterways. This includes a comprehensive spill response system, constant cleaning of roads and apron areas, as well as an annual shore cleanup programme.

SDG 15: Life On Land. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Not normally seen as an area of major aviation impact, but some aviation projects can have an impact on land use – particularly building of infrastructure and potentially the use of sustainable aviation fuels. In addition, a number of aviation partners are involved in projects that help support this SDG.

Examples of action

Singapore Airlines works in partnership with the Harapan Rainforest Initiative, which aims to restore and protect one of the world’s most threatened and biodiverse ecosystems. Chicago’s O’Hare is one of a number of airports that keep apiaries on their grounds, increasing pollination in the surrounding areas and used as a ‘biomonitor’ for air quality. The aviation sector is working with partners in government and conservation organisations to combat the illegal wildlife trade. Through the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce, the International Air Transport Association and Airports Council International are working to raise awareness of the illegal wildlife trade among employees and passengers. Bombardier participates in a long-term partnership to protect the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, near its manufacturing site in Querétaro, Mexico.

SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

At its most fundamental level, air transport brings people together. This fosters understanding and helps bridge divides and ultimately helps build peace. It is perhaps best elaborated in the preamble to the Chicago Convention, the ‘founding document’ of international civil aviation: "Whereas the future development of international civil aviation can greatly help to create and preserve friendship and understanding among the nations and peoples of the world, yet its abuse can become a threat to the general security; and Whereas it is desirable to avoid friction and to promote that co-operation between nations and peoples upon which the peace of the world depends; Therefore, the undersigned governments having agreed on certain principles and arrangements in order that international civil aviation may be developed in a safe and orderly manner and that international air transport management services may be established on the basis of equality of opportunity and operated soundly and economically; Have accordingly concluded this Convention to that end." Aviation also has a very visible responsibility for the security of its operation and the industry works closely in partnership with governments and multilateral bodies to ensure that system is robust. In addition, many aviation partners are working to reduce the use of air transport as a conduit for illegal activities such as wildlife and human trafficking.

Examples of action

Over 40 aviation-related companies are members of the UN Global Compact and nearly 50 airlines and airports produce CSR reports that are aligned to the Global Reporting Initiative. FedEx established a separate Corporate Identity and Compliance department in 2015 to reinforce its commitment to ethical business practices and elimination of corruption and bribery. The ICAO Secretariat provides legal advice and assistance to ICAO member States when legal disputes over aviation activity arise. American Airlines’ 120,000 staff members are being trained to identify cases of potential child sex trafficking.

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Partnerships between all sectors of the aviation industry enable the global air transport industry to operate: airports, airlines, air traffic management, manufacturers and suppliers. The industry partners with the United Nations (mainly through the International Civil Aviation Organization) and governments to develop regulations and cooperate closely on issues such as climate action, safety and security.

Examples of action

The whole aviation industry has worked with governments to secure the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for Aviation, through the UN agency, ICAO and with ICAO to advance aviation safety in Africa. DHL is working with the UN Development Programme to prepare airports for natural disasters under the ‘Get Airports Ready for Disaster’ (GARD) programme. Airports of Thailand have shown their commitment to supporting the SDGs in their 2016 Sustainable Development report, highlighting ways in which they are partnering with a range of public and private stakeholders to achieve SDG 17 and others.

The importance of sustainability

We have talked about sustainability and the three major pillars of sustainability, but why is it important for us to discuss? Sustainability is becoming more important for all companies, across all industries. 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive today, and another 22% think it will be in the future.

There are many reasons why sustainability is important to us.

  • Improves trust and engagement between staff, investors, customers and other stakeholders
  • Attracts and retain employees
  • Builds credibility, improves relationships and enhances brand awareness
  • Reinforce Community Relations
  • Encourage Innovation that benefits other measurements
  • A better understanding of your customers

Competencies for sustainable management

What competencies should a company demonstrate to ensure its future success? Companies today must adopt forward-thinking approaches to secure access to resources and maintain their social license to operate. Company leaders, regardless whether they adorn a sustainability title, must demonstrate comfort managing systemic change and navigating complex, interdependent business networks.

Upgrading competency models for sustainability

Following suit from a human resources perspective, companies have the opportunity to incorporate sustainability and long-termism into their competency models to attract leaders of tomorrow. I’m talking about the entire C suite here, not just the CSO.

A competency model is a roadmap for seeking and developing ideal employees. In short, it defines the criteria guiding HR processes such as recruitment and selection, training and development, and compensation.

The 5 core competencies for sustainable management:

  • Systems thinking
  • This is the connected, holistic thinker. Systems thinkers understand the context behind a problem and its relationship to broader trends. For example, a sustainability leader grasps the system of relationships in which business is embedded: Supply chains; industries; cities; regions; and ecosystems. Systems thinkers often have multidisciplinary backgrounds combining technical and creative fields. They also may have expertise in principles of systems management such as resilience and managing for emergence.

  • External collaboration
  • Leaders must be willing to work with entities beyond business. A significant portion of a business’ environmental impact may be found up or downstream of its operations, meaning collaboration with suppliers, customers and even competitors is necessary. Collaboration helps companies build social capital, explore new market opportunities and shape the contexts in which they operate. We’ve seen great examples of this teamwork: more businesses are investing in partnerships with NGOs to tackle social issues, and industry collaborations such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition are growing.

  • Social innovation
  • The magnitude of sustainability challenges demands a fundamental reengineering of business. Leaders with social innovation competence view this challenge as a growth opportunity. Social innovators find ways to redesign products and processes that create business and social value. They question the status quo and treat constraints as transformable. Within organizations, innovative leaders encourage social entrepreneurship among employees and prioritize interdisciplinary teams.

  • Sustainability literacy
  • Sustainability-literate leaders are aware of emerging environmental and social trends, and the risks and opportunities they create for business. Fundamentally, they understand the changing role of business in society, how peer organizations are responding and available methods to revise business models. These may include conducting environmental and social cost accounting, or using tools for scenario planning, back-casting, hot spot and materiality analyses.

  • Active values
  • A leader with active values is mindful of emotions and motivations and sensitive to those of others. Mindful leaders can view themselves and their work as part of a larger purpose, motivating them to harness business to improve society. This emotional intelligence fosters resiliency, trust and reciprocity among co-workers and external stakeholders. Empathetic leaders also may innovate products aligned with values that are relevant to customers’ genuine needs.

Aviation and sustainable development

air transport management sustainability

Aviation’s social impact on welfare is a major concern for most states, nations, and societies. The complexity and multidimensionality of this social impact address the developing of new and more advanced methods of measuring welfare. This measurement is an essential requirement for the economic and social development of all countries as well as for supporting regional and global cooperation and integration.

Focusing on the aviation welfare impact, efficient, safe, and secure aviation systems offer important access to markets, employment, education, health, and basic services critical to poverty alleviation. At the same time, aviation is a major player in making a big difference in promoting generation of equity and equality.

Sustainability, based on the concept of the three pillars: environment, social, and economic, proposes that sustainable development can only be achieved when each pillar is promoted in concert with the others. On this basis, the defining feature of how sustainability is interpreted is based on the level of welfare and well-being. Increasingly, it is recognized that welfare and its long-term sustainability are the ultimate goals of development and that these notions better capture the human experience of development. The need for wider measures focusing on human well-being has been supported by key stakeholders in the global development arena that have demanded for a multidimensional concept of human well-being.

A sustainability criterion of “well-being” focuses on changes in well-being over time rather than on whether the highest possible level of well-being is achieved at any specific time (Arrow et al. 2004). Within economic frameworks, sustainability is defined to be achieved if the well-being of society is maintained over time.

A different view of the concept of well-being was given to Human Development Report, according to which human development is the main objective of economic development. This approach is based on a regulatory framework for the development of the well-being and welfare of the individual and social happiness and evaluates a wide range of people’s quality of life such as individual well-being, inequality, and poverty. According to Sen, the human development must target the quality of life and freedom. Addressing human’s quality of life as their goal development is the base concept in Human Development Reports (HDR), which focuses on a variety of core functions for the quality of life, such as avoiding death and education.

Based on this human development aspect, several attempts have been made in order to develop more complex indicators for economic developments that are more representative than the GPD per capita. The most recent composite indicator is the Human Development Index (HDI). HDI is an indicator that measures human development, a concept which, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), refers to the extension of individuals desires such as education, health, and income. However, the main goal of HDI is the classification of countries according to the level of human development. This index was created in 1990 by Pakistani economist, ul Haq. HDI is a composite index consisting of three elements, which reflect three dimensions of human development: longevity, knowledge, and access to resources. Life expectancy at birth is selected to measure longevity, knowledge is measured by educational level based on a weighted sum for the rate of adult education and the average number of years of education, and finally, the access to resources is being measured by a real per capita GDP.

The role of air transport

Air travel provides vital links for the burgeoning global tourism industry. It is estimated that over half (58%) of all international tourists travel by air, so the aviation and tourism industries depend on each other for sustainable growth.

The tourism sector

Tourism makes a major contribution to the global economy. It supports 319 million jobs and contributes $8.8 trillion to world GDP (10.4% of the global economy). By 2029, the World Travel & Tourism Council expects tourism to provide 421 million jobs globally.

Aviation's crucial tourism role

Tourism is essential to economic development strategies in many developing countries, particularly in remote regions far away from their source tourism markets that rely on a steady inflow of tourists. Without the influx of tourists, their economies would decline significantly.

In Africa, an estimated 7.7 million people are employed as a result of the continuous arrival of overseas visitors, most of whom arrive by air. In 2018, these workers contributed $44 billion to GDP in African economies. In some Caribbean countries, tourism provides one of the few means of economic growth.

Aviation’s contribution to tourism employment and GDP is significant:

  • Direct: It is estimated that globally 19.6 million jobs in tourism are supported by spending of foreign visitors arriving by air. This includes jobs in industries such as hotels, restaurants, visitor attractions, local transport and car rental, but excludes air transport industry jobs.
  • Indirect: A further 16.4 million jobs in industries supplying the tourism industry are supported by visitors arriving by air.
  • Induced: These direct and indirect tourism jobs supported by air transport generate a further seven million jobs in other parts of the economy, through employees spending their earnings on goods and services.

Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, air transport supports over 44.8 million jobs within tourism, contributing around $1 trillion a year to world GDP.

Sustainable tourism

Tourism plays a major role in supporting sustainable economic growth. Responsible and sustainable tourism provides important service sector jobs, while preserving and appreciating the earth’s natural resources, rather than depleting them. However, there needs to be a focus by both tourism operators and governments to ensure environmental and social impact is considered, as well as the economic benefits.

There are some great examples of economies taking a proactive strategic, holistic, and sustainable view of tourism development, such as New Zealand, Costa Rica, Iceland, and Bhutan. The World Travel & Tourism Council sets out some key principles for responsible sustainable development in ‘tourism for tomorrow’:

  • Impacts natural and cultural environments in a positive way.
  • Provides benefits to all sectors of society, including young people, women and indigenous peoples.
  • Attracts and develops a skilled workforce to support growing demand.
  • Stimulates consumer demand for sustainable products.
  • Uses latest technology to find innovative solutions to challenges such as overcrowding in popular tourist destinations.

How to harness the benefits of a growing tourism sector

Developing countries, are becoming more competitive in the tourism market, most notably in Asia-Pacific, and developing economies are growing steadily as a result. However, as incomes rise in developing economies and airfares fall, restrictive visa regimes remain an obstacle to international travel, even for tourism purposes. The good news is these countries are realising the unnecessary barrier that these entry procedures place on their own tourism sector, curtailing economic opportunities and job creation.

According to 2018 UN World Tourism Organization data, destinations worldwide required 53% of the world’s population to obtain a visa prior to departure, a significant improvement from 2008, when 77% required one. Over the same decade, the destinations without visa requirements has only increased from 17% to 21%.

Green economy

A green economy is defined as low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. In a green economy, growth in employment and income are driven by public and private investment into such economic activities, infrastructure and assets that allow reduced carbon emissions and pollution, enhanced energy and resource efficiency, and prevention of the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

These green investments need to be enabled and supported through targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and changes in taxation and regulation. UN Environment promotes a development path that understands natural capital as a critical economic asset and a source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods depend on natural resources. The notion of green economy does not replace sustainable development, but creates a new focus on the economy, investment, capital and infrastructure, employment and skills and positive social and environmental outcomes across Asia and the Pacific.

Green Economy

The role of Green Economy, Sustainable Consumption and Production and Resource Efficiency for Sustainable Development: Sustainable Consumption and Production aims to improve production processes and consumption practices to reduce resource consumption, waste generation and emissions across the full life cycle of processes and products – while Resource Efficiency refers to the ways in which resources are used to deliver value to society and aims to reduce the amount of resources needed, and emissions and waste generated, per unit of product or service. The Green Economy provides a macro-economic approach to sustainable economic growth with a central focus on investments, employment and skills.

The three main areas for the current work on Green Economy are:

  • Advocacy of macro-economic approach to sustainable economic growth through regional, sub-regional and national fora.
  • Demonstration of Green Economy approaches with a central focus on access to green finance, technology and investments.
  • Support to countries in terms of development and mainstreaming of macro-economic policies to support the transition to a Green Economy.

The UN Environment is supporting Mongolia in the implementation of the National Green Development Policy, integration of green economy into local level development plans, Sustainable Development Goals indicators and greening of key sectors.


Multi-stakeholder partnerships for the promotion of a Green Economy are supported to accelerate and consolidate sustainable changes in both consumption and production patterns. In addition to Governments and not-for-profit organizations, UN Environment has increased its engagement with the private sector – which is a very important actor in promoting resource efficiency and green economy.

CO2 emission targets for aviation

co2 emission targets in aviation industry

Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU is taking action to reduce aviation emissions in Europe and working with the international community to develop measures with global reach.

The revision of the EU ETS Directive concerning aviation will serve to implement the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) by the EU in a way that is consistent with the EU’s 2030 climate objectives. The initiative will also propose to increase the number of allowances being auctioned under the system as far as aircraft operators are concerned.

The proposal, planned for the second quarter of 2021, will be part of the broader European Green Deal.

Aviation emissions

Policy actions and the efforts of industry have led to improvements in fuel efficiency over recent years. For instance, the amount of fuel burned per passenger dropped by 24% between 2005 and 2017. However, these environmental benefits have been outpaced by a sustained growth in air traffic, with passengers in 2017 flying on average 60% further than in 2005.

In the EU in 2017, direct emissions from aviation accounted for 3.8% of total CO2 emissions. The aviation sector creates 13.9% of the emissions from transport, making it the second biggest source of transport GHG emissions after road transport.

If global aviation were a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.

Someone flying from Lisbon to New York and back generates roughly the same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their home for a whole year.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasted that by 2050 international aviation emissions could triple compared with 2015.

Aviation also has an impact on the climate through the release of nitrogen oxides, water vapour, and sulphate and soot particles at high altitudes, which could have a significant climate effect. A November 2020 study conducted by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) looks into the non-CO2 effects of aviation on climate change, and fulfils the requirement of the EU Emissions Trading System Directive (Art. 30.4). Overall, the significance of combined non-CO2 climate impacts from aviation activities, previously estimated to be at least as important as those of CO2 alone, is now fully confirmed by the report.

To achieve climate neutrality, the European Green Deal sets out the need to reduce transport emissions by 90% by 2050 (compared to 1990-levels). The aviation sector will have to contribute to the reduction.

Aviation in EU Emissions Trading System

CO2 emissions from aviation have been included in the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) since 2012. Under the EU ETS, all airlines operating in Europe, European and non-European alike, are required to monitor, report and verify their emissions, and to surrender allowances against those emissions. They receive tradeable allowances covering a certain level of emissions from their flights per year.

The system has so far contributed to reducing the carbon footprint of the aviation sector by more than 17 million tonnes per year, with compliance covering over 99.5% of emissions.

In addition to market-based measures like the ETS, operational measures – such as modernising and improving air traffic management technologies, procedures and systems – also contribute to reducing aviation emissions.

The legislation, adopted in 2008, was designed to apply to emissions from flights from, to and within the European Economic Area (EEA) – the EU Member States, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The European Court of Justice has confirmed that this approach is compatible with international law.

The EU, however, decided to limit the scope of the EU ETS to flights within the EEA until 2016 to support the development of a global measure by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In light of the adoption of a Resolution by the 2016 ICAO Assembly on the global measure (see below), the EU has decided to maintain the geographic scope of the EU ETS limited to intra-EEA flights from 2017 onwards. The EU ETS for aviation will be subject to a new review in the light of the international developments related to the operationalisation of CORSIA. The next review should consider how to implement the global measure in Union law through a revision of the EU ETS legislation. In the absence of a new amendment, the EU ETS would revert back to its original full scope from 2024.

Global scheme to offset emissions

In October 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on a Resolution for a global market-based measure to address CO2 emissions from international aviation as of 2021. The agreed Resolution sets out the objective and key design elements of the global scheme, as well as a roadmap for the completion of the work on implementing modalities.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, aims to stabilise CO2 emissions at 2020 levels by requiring airlines to offset the growth of their emissions after 2020.

Airlines will be required to monitor emissions on all international routes;

offset emissions from routes included in the scheme by purchasing eligible emission units generated by projects that reduce emissions in other sectors (e.g. renewable energy).

During the period 2021-2035, and based on expected participation, the scheme is estimated to offset around 80% of the emissions above 2020 levels. This is because participation in the first phases is voluntary for states, and there are exemptions for those with low aviation activity. All EU countries will join the scheme from the start.

A regular review of the scheme is required under the terms of the agreement. This should allow for continuous improvement, including in how the scheme contributes to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Work is ongoing at ICAO to develop the necessary implementation rules and tools to make the scheme operational. Effective and concrete implementation and operationalisation of CORSIA will ultimately depend on national measures to be developed and enforced at domestic level.

Green development in air transport

What is green aviation?

According to NASA, green aviation is a term used to describe activities in the industry that improve aircraft efficiency, and reduce noise pollution and greenhouse gases — all that in turns lowers carbon emissions.

Airlines, aircraft manufacturers and airports are all taking important steps to ensure that the industry evolves to provide environmentally-conscious consumers with greener options.

Aircraft innovations are improving efficiency

Fuel consumption of aircraft has been vastly improving, with big players like Airbus and Boeing producing more efficient planes such as the Airbus A350 XWB and Boeing 737 Dreamliner. A fuel-efficient aircraft means the aircraft can travel a longer distance on one gallon of fuel.

The industry is also pumping in research and development into electric aircraft, whether it’s a fully-electric aircraft or a hybrid-electric aircraft, which means an aircraft propelled by both fuel and an electric battery.

Diversification of aviation fuels

Another way to greener aviation is to diversify fuel type by using sustainable aviation fuels, which can be produced from plants, algae, cooking oil, and even municipal waste. Sustainable aviation fuels are alternatives that can directly replace conventional jet fuel as they have the same qualities and characteristics. Both types of fuel can be used on the same aircraft, engine and fuel delivery system.

Airports such as Norway’s Oslo Airport and Bergen Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and Stockholm Arlanda Airport are also making sustainable aviation fuels available to all airlines on a regular basis.

Strategic targets for the aviation industry

In 2009, the International Air Transport Association put in place strategic targets for the aviation industry. This includes carbon-neutral growth from 2020, which means that even if there is an increase in traffic growth, the level of net carbon emissions will not increase. Other targets include reducing net carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

As of February 2021, a total of 88 countries have pledged to participate in the United Nations-negotiated plan known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). It aims to put a cap to any increase in carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets. Purchasing a carbon offset essentially means compensating for the carbon emissions produced by reducing emissions elsewhere.

The United States and United Kingdom, two of the biggest carbon emitters, have also joined the pact.

It would take a major collaborative effort to ensure the aviation industry remains on the right path, but combating climate change is a work in progress.

Another century of flying might unearth technological innovations advanced enough to ensure a greener way of life. Despite individual responsibilities to cut down unnecessary air travel, the onus remains with the aviation industry and governments to offer greener alternatives.

Environmental, social and economic support

The interconnection between the environmental, social and economic pillars of sustainable development is becoming a question of growing importance. The link between social and economic policies has been widely explored. The same applies to the link between environmental and economic policies. By contrast, the interest in the social/environmental interface is relatively recent and evidence on the impact of environmental policies on social policies (in particular social cohesion/inclusion policies) and vice versa is still limited. The interaction between these policies needs to be better understood so that policies in the two fields can take advantage of positive interactions and avoid negative interactions.

An example of how environmental policies might be socially regressive could be the disproportionate impact of higher energy taxes (or higher goods' prices) on poorer households. Environmental degradation might also tend to affect more the vulnerable groups in society. Lower income groups might have higher exposure to health risks and as a result social inequities in the distribution of environmental-related diseases might exist. Social inclusion policies (e.g. energy subsides) might also have an environmental impact. All this should be analysed taking into account differences in consumption patterns and environmental behaviour by socioeconomic status.

At policy level, major efforts are required to reduce poverty, to achieve economic progress, to improve environmental protection and to reduce unsustainable consumption and production patterns. A key issue is whether these goals are compatible with each other and how they can be pursued in a mutually reinforcing way. There is clearly an increasing need to treat these aspects in a comprehensive way. As both an enabler and accelerator of globalisation, aviation has had profound and sometime unintended and unanticipated social and economic impacts. Commercial airports are not only transport nodes that facilitate aerial movement they are also major centres of employment but often sites of political contestation surrounding their planning and development as economic growth imperatives conflict with environmental concerns.

Noise is often cited as being one of the most socially contested aspects of airport operations for local communities, particularly when flights are operating during the night. This is a particular challenge for cargo operators whose business model is based on rapid overnight delivery and distribution. Specific factors including night noise curfews and the provision and co-location of freight forwarders are significant determinants of airport choice and this, in turn, leads to freight forwarding firms clustering at major freight facilities.

As well as meeting the mobility needs of business travellers and cargo consignors, air travel also facilitates the mass movement of leisure passengers. The benefits, challenges and limits to growth of this market segment are explored together with the social, economic and environmental challenges tourism creates for receiving countries. The role of airlines in planning, developing and marketing tourist destinations is also examined in this Volume. Aviation-led tourist development is particularly pronounced in cities such as Singapore and Dubai where air service deregulation and airport-airline-destination marketing strategies have created not only major international transit hubs but also significant centres of international urban tourism.

In addition to serving routes with high levels of passenger and cargo demand, aviation also performs a vital role for geographically remote and/or inaccessible regions that cannot be rapidly accessed by road, sea or rail. Owing to lower levels of demand, the need for small (and sometimes specially equipped aircraft) and the vagaries of the local weather and climate, these services are expensive to operate and may not be economically viable without subsidy. Experiences from the US and European Union examine some of the issues surrounding the operation of these services. The Volume concludes with consideration of aviation’s environmental impacts and potential mitigation strategies such as the EU’s Emissions Trading System.

Climate impacts of aviation

Aviation emissions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change. It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. In October 2018, the IPCC published its Special Report into the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels to support the Paris Agreement process. It concluded that climate warming due to human activities is currently estimated to increase by 0.2°C per decade due to past and ongoing emissions. In order to stabilise warming at 1.5°C, global net CO2 emissions from human activities would have to decline to 45% of 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050.

The IPCC considers carbon dioxide (CO2) as the principal greenhouse gas. Aviation represents approximately 2 to 3% of the total annual global CO2 emissions from human activities and, in addition to CO2, has impacts on climate from its non-CO2 emissions (e.g. NOX, particles).

Overall radiative forcing and aviation’s contribution

Since the late 19th century, an overall climate warming of 0.78oC from man-made greenhouse gas emissions has resulted from a total RF increase of 2.29 W/m2. A comprehensive assessment of aviation RF effects was last undertaken in 2009 for a base year of 2005. The overall RF was 0.078 W/m2, which represented 4.9% of the total RF increase as assessed by the IPCC for the Fourth Assessment Report.

Climate effects from aviation emissions

CO2 Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuel accumulate in the atmosphere and can remain there for hundreds to thousands of years. Thus, in accounting for aviation CO2 RF, emissions from the beginning of ‘significant’ civil aviation activities, usually taken as 1940, are used in the calculations of the marginal contribution of aviation to overall CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Of the overall aviation RF for 2005, CO2 RF was approximately 40%. The other 60% originates from non-CO2 emissions. NOx The overall RF effect from aircraft nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions at cruise altitude, via atmospheric chemistry, has a warming effect from the formation of short-term tropospheric ozone (O3) and a near counterbalancing cooling effect from a reduction in ambient methane (CH4). The overall balance is a positive RF and warming effect. Since 2009, smaller additional negative RF effects (cooling) associated with the CH4 reduction have been identified and quantified, but the overall balance still remains one of warming.

Contrail-cirrus clouds

Contrails are the line-shaped ice clouds formed behind cruising aircraft, and their presence and longevity are a function of the conditions of the background atmosphere. If the atmosphere is sufficiently cold and icesupersaturated, these linear contrails can spread into large cirrus-cloud like structures. Such individual clouds can have both warming and cooling effects, although the overall global mean response is considered to be warming. Improvements have been made in the quantification of both linear contrail RF and contrail-cirrus RF. As can be observed, contrails can spread into large cirrus cloudlike structures, which are estimated to have a larger RF impact than linear contrails. The IPCC estimated that persistent contrails had an RF of around 0.010 W/m2, and a combined RF with contrail-cirrus of around about 0.050 W/m2. This is 2 to 3 times the RF from historical aviation CO2 emissions, but has a much wider uncertainty range than that of CO2.

Particles (direct effects)

Particles of soot and sulphate have a very small direct RF in terms of warming and cooling, respectively.


The more recently discussed ‘indirect’ effects on cloud formation are also potentially important. It is not known whether the overall effect of soot particles on high-level clouds is warming or cooling, or if the magnitude is substantial or negligible in comparison with other non-CO2 effects of aviation. The sulphate particles, however, have a well-understood negative RF effect, due to the lower-level cloud modification of droplet size distribution and optical brightness, but with an associated high level of uncertainty. Clearly much more work needs to be done to understand the magnitude and potential sign of these indirect cloudiness effects.


CO2 emissions from aviation continue to increase steadily, and so does the CO2 RF. Non-CO2 impacts are also expected to have increased, roughly in proportion to fuel use. The non-CO2 impacts still have larger uncertainties than those associated with CO2, particularly impacts on clouds.

The high level of scientific understanding of the climate effect from aviation CO2 emissions, combined with the longterm impacts of CO2, make it a clear and important target for mitigation efforts. Nonetheless, non CO2 impacts cannot be ignored as they potentially represent approximately 60% of total climate impacts that are important in the shorter term (excluding cloudiness impacts). However, it worth noting that the level of scientific understanding of the magnitude of non-CO2 impacts is medium to very low, and these knowledge gaps remain to be addressed.

What are the advantages of sustainable aviation?

Aviation is one of the most “global” industries: Aconnecting people, cultures and businesses acrosscontinents. Colleagues throughout the sector are committed to raising awareness of the benefits and the role of aviation. The IHLG organizations have collaborated to provide a comprehensive view of the importance of aviation on supporting the global economy and generating social benefits through the prism of sustainable air transport solutions. It is necessary for all stakeholders and partners to work together to maximize the benefits of air transport, and to support the sustainable growth of aviation by connecting more people and more places, more often.

The future growth of air transport will likely depend on sustainable world economic and trade growth, as well as declining airline costs and ticket prices. Other factors, including regulatory regimes (such as liberalization of air transport), technological improvements and fuel costs will also impact future growth.

To encourage this projected growth in a sustainable manner and produce inclusive and productive development and employment, aviation must continue to develop coherent policies with tourism, trade and other transport sectors. A national or regional policy framework consistent with ICAO's standards and policies, and with globally accepted good regulatory practices, can unlock the full value of aviation. New technologies and procedures should also be adopted to further improve connectivity and modernize infrastructure while minimizing any possible adverse impacts of this growth on the environment.

The sustainable aviation will help States: a) increase and improve understanding of aviation’s importance relative to the overall national economy; b) highlight inter-dependencies of the civil aviation sector with other sectors to sustain expected growth of economic activities such as tourism (and trade) as an export industry to the national economy; c) design and implement policies to facilitate connectivity as well as investments into aviation, thus promoting the full economic and job creation potential offered by this activity; and d) foster public awareness and develop education programmes to inform and engage people about the imperative of air connectivity, as well as about the importance and benefits of sustainable air transport development.

Attainment of the SDGs relies on advances in sustainable air transport, which is a driver of sustainable development. Needs for assistance and capacity-building, including infrastructure, should be mapped out and prioritized in line with the SDGs. All stakeholders must make a genuine commitment to transforming the transport system in terms of individual travel and freight into one that is “safe, affordable, accessible, efficient, and resilient while minimizing carbon and other emissions and environmental impacts”.

Affordability is key, most especially if transportation networks in the 21st century are to be truly inclusive, and fulfil their promise to provide the practical mobility that is so urgently needed today. Accessibility is another fundamental requirement, because only 50 per cent of the world’s over 7.5 billion people have access to an international airport within 100 kilometres radius. Resiliency also helps to highlight that the massive investments required for quality aviation infrastructure and modernization worldwide must be directed to wellmanaged projects and products with dedicated accountability and quality assurance mechanisms.

To foster the projected growth of air transport in a sustainable manner, a large number of investments in the modernization and expansion of quality aviation infrastructure are required over a long period. The global investment needs for airport expansion and construction, for example, are estimated at USD 57 1.8 trillion from 2015 to 2030 . Investment in aviation infrastructure ensures that the capacity of the global aviation system can meet future demand; generate gains such as reductions in travel time and improvement of service predictability and reliability; and, at the same time, maintain public confidence that aviation is safe, secure and environmentally responsible. Although aviation's socio-economic benefits, its crosscutting nature and multiple links to other economic sectors are widely recognized, this has rarely translated into the level of investment which is necessary to truly derive these advantages.

The strategic placement of quality intermodal infrastructure does not only enhance the connectivity of airports but also supports the sustainable social, economic and environmental development of the region. For example, several airports have structured their development with the aerotropolis concept (airport city) which integrates airports with business centres and local communities, providing far reaching benefits for many stakeholders. Land-use planning and management is also a vital instrument in ensuring that the activities nearby airports are compatible with aviation, and that the gains achieved by the reduced noise of the latest generation of aircraft are not offset by further residential development around airports.

Aviation makes the dream and desire of being able to fly Aa reality. As we see in this report, it is in the business of connecting people, overcoming oceans and borders, and creating significant economic benefits. At the same time, aviation has vastly enhanced the safety of flight, and addressed ever-changing security challenges.

Other means of access that are available — telecommunication, e-commerce, and perhaps, 3-D printing, may, in the near future, substitute some air travel or impact the growth and nature of the demand. Nonetheless, moving people and goods over short and long distances remains vital to sustainable development. The key is meeting the needs of people in their personal and economic lives while respecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs: the essence of sustainable development.

Needless to say, aviation can only be sustainable if it does not compromise the environment. Technological progress and operational improvements continue but the rate of traffic growth will result in a net increase in aircraft noise and aviation emissions without taking additional measures. Even as early as 2010, ICAO and its Member States adopted the ambitious aspirational goals for the international aviation sector of “improving fuel efficiency by two per cent per year and from 2020 keeping net CO2 emissions at the same levels”. The more States join the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which was adopted in October 2016, the higher environmental integrity can be achieved. Each State participating in the CORSIA brings us closer to meeting the aspirational goal of carbon neutral growth from 2020.

For sustainable air transport development, another aspirational goal or long-term ambition will be “no constraints of infrastructure capacity, technology and financial resources for aviation development”. Quality aviation infrastructure should safely accommodate the increase in air traffic demand, and respond to the diversified needs of providers, users and consumers, global environmental concerns, and other issues inherent in the current air transport systems. In this regard, States should, in partnership with international and regional organizations, the industry, as well as multi-lateral development banks and other financial institutions, inter alia:

  • diversify funding and financing sources with the elevation of the role of the private sector and the effective use of domestic resources and international development funding;
  • create enabling institutional, legal and regulatory frameworks to encourage investments;
  • reflect the priorities of the aviation sector in national/regional development plans;
  • integrate air transport and urban planning (including land-use planning) initiatives with an appropriatelybalanced development of transport modes;
  • establish strategic infrastructure targets and monitoring and evaluation frameworks using a datadriven approach; and • design public awareness campaigns and education programmes to raise business confidence and foster an informed and engaged public as a crucial partner.

We urge all stakeholders to pledge the highest level of commitment to maximizing the benefits of aviation in a sustainable manner that is safe, affordable, accessible, efficient, resilient and environmentally responsible.

Top Sustainable Airports

The aviation sector is facing increasing pressure to clean up its act when it comes to climate change, but gas-guzzling airplanes aren’t the only culprits. As airports expand, so too does their carbon footprint, with more energy required to power new terminals, ground transport vehicles and the creation of infrastructure. Building capacity for additional aircraft can also create a backlash amongst environmentalists – see, for example, the frenzy over a potential third runway at the UK’s Heathrow Airport.

Many airports across the world have therefore adopted greener elements into their designs and operation strategies, as well as subscribed to eco-friendly initiatives. The Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, run by Airports Council International (ACI), is helping more than 200 airports to manage their emissions, with the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality.

Through sustainable practices and the use of renewable fuel sources, we take a closer look at the airports setting an example for other aviation hubs to follow.


Scandinavia has built a reputation for eco-friendly initiatives, and this trend has spread to its airports. Last year, Norway’s Oslo Airport launched a 377,296ft² expansion to its terminal, with energy efficiency cited as a key part of its design. Recycled and natural materials embody the Oslo terminal expansion. The extension was built with reused steel and environmentally friendly concrete mixed with volcanic ash, before being clad in timber sourced from Scandinavian forests. Most intriguingly, snow is taken from Oslo’s runways and stored in an onsite depot for use as a coolant in summer. This aspect won the airport an ‘excellent’ sustainability rating under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method standard.


The first European airport to achieve carbon neutrality in 2009, Stockholm Arlanda Airport is the only airport in the world whose environmental permit features a cap on its carbon dioxide emissions. Pollution across every operation, from aircraft operations to vehicular traffic to and from the terminal, must not exceed a level set in 1990, creating additional pressure for the airport to green-ify its operations where possible. To save electricity, Stockholm makes use of a unique biofuel system to heat its terminals, hangar and airfield buildings. Water is collected by a series of wells linked to an underground aquifer, before being sent to the terminal’s air conditioning system during summer, and to a biofuel-powered heating system in winter. The method is also used to head pads of cement near the airport’s hangars, keeping doors and ramps clear of ice. Through the implementation of low-power LED lighting and a number of other measures, Stockholm was able to cut its energy use by almost a third in the period from 2005-2012.


Zurich Airport has reduced its carbon emissions by approximately 30% since 1991, and aims to reduce this even further by 2030. Photovoltaic systems are fitted on the roves of aircraft docks and car parks, while underground energy piles are used to heat and cool its terminals. Water consumption at the airport has also decreased, with domestic wastewater being channelled to an offsite treatment plant, and rain being collected for use in toilets. Water from de-icing operations is also recycled via a unique natural process, during which specialised micro-organisms are deployed to break down solid residues in the liquid. Zurich’s stance on noise emissions has also been praised, as it charges airlines for aircraft noise based on their category and calculates the level of noise exposure from flight movements using a highly detailed mapping program.


The island of Menorca is recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, fostering the harmonious integration of people and nature. This extends to Menorca Airport, whose entire culture, from planning to day-to-day management, is environmentally-conscious. As part of its comprehensive sustainability strategy, Menorca Airport is accredited at Level 1 Mapping of ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation, and is working on soon moving to Level 2 Reduction. Carbon reduction efforts include the installation of a second photovoltaic solar plant on the roof of the general car park, which will be the largest grid-independent photovoltaic solar system on the island. Other measures being adopted to reduce emissions include the use of electric vehicles and charging points, as well as LED lighting. The airport won the Eco-Innovation Award at this year’s ACI EUROPE Best Airport Awards, in recognition of its investment in protection of the island’s rich biodiversity against climate change. Its focus is on sustainable development to help reduce the negative impact of climate change on the island’s Mediterranean woodland.


Salvador Bahía Airport is a clear business success story that shows that efficient management of human and material resources can lead to substantial improvements in the airport’s environmental footprint. ITAérea’s students value in a very positive way knowing and experiencing practical cases of this type through their protagonists and main agents involved. The airport meets 33 of the 36 indicators designated by the Brazilian National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) in the surveys carried out to all the airports in Brazil, registering the highest final score of the program (88.85%). Salvador Bahia Airport joined the Environmental Policy of VINCI Airports, AirPact, and since then it has become the first zero waste to landfill in Brazil and the first with zero liquid discharges, as it recycles 100% of the treated wastewater and reuse it on the toilets and cooling towers. Likewise, the airport has 100% LED lighting, obtaining 30% of its energy from solar sources. It should be noted that the Salvador de Bahia Airport has reached Level 2 of Carbon Accreditation Certification (ACA), an institution that recognizes it as a “green airport”.


Boston Logan International Airport features the world’s first air terminal to win a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accreditation, which has since become a defining signal of quality for the sector. Its Terminal A features roofing and pavement surfaces designed to reflect heat from the building, as well as low-flow bathroom fixtures to save water. The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) invested $6.3m into repaving one of the airport’s runways with environmentally friendly asphalt, which could be heated at a significantly lower temperature during construction. Massport claimed this would lead to a 2,000t reduction in carbon emissions during the course of the project. A fleet of 6ft tall wind turbines are installed on top of the airport’s offices, generating around 3% of the energy required for its operations.


Denver International Airport features the largest solar power farm at a commercial airport in the US, with four on-airport solar arrays generating enough electricity to power 2,500 homes. The airport’s pioneering environmental management system has led to numerous successes. In 2015, it diverted more than 2,100t of municipal solid waste from landfill. Across the airport’s operations, more than 200t of organic waste are composted annually, and plentiful stations for refilling water bottles are littered throughout its terminals. Denver’s passenger gates offer plug-in energy sources to aircraft, allowing them to shut down their auxiliary power units to improve air quality and reduce noise pollution.


The potentially damaging impact of tourism has been a constant concern for the Galápagos Islands, making it an apt location for the world’s first entirely ‘green’ airport. Built in 2012, Galápagos Ecological Airport was designed to run completely on solar and wind power, with 65% of total energy supplied by windmills and 35% coming from photovoltaic panels fitted on walkways. A massive 80% of Galápagos’ infrastructure was created using recycled materials, including steel pipes taken from oil extraction fields in the Ecaudorian Amazon. Wood and metal structures from its ancestral hub, Seymour Airport, were reused, while furniture was produced from environmentally friendly sources. On top of this, the airport features a desalination plant, which captures seawater and purifies it for use in the terminal. Wastewater is then pumped back into the treatment system for passengers to use again (although, understandably, not for consumption).


India’s largest international airport features the eighth largest terminal in the world. Now, with the aviation sector expanding rapidly, it is trying to live up to the namesake of Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister famed for her support of environmental initiatives. The airport’s 5.4 million square foot Terminal 3 offers well-lit departure lounges, 1,200 low-power LCD screens, 300 rainwater harvesting stations, and storm drains to combat erosion. Furthermore, battery-powered vehicles are used to transfer passengers between terminals and baggage claim. Indira Gandhi Airport recently won two gongs for its eco-friendliness, including the Wings India Award for the ‘Most Sustainable and Green Airport’, in addition to being declared the world’s best airport with more than 40 million passengers per year by ACI.


Not only is Singapore’s Changi Airport one of the world’s best airports, but it also has a pedigree for being environmentally conscious.

Its two most recent terminal additions are designed to highlight the airport’s commitment to green principles, with skylights to boost natural light, air conditioners positioned nearer to the floor, and an abundance of greenery. The recently opened Terminal 4 features a green wall bedecked with more than 20,000 plant species, which is said to reduce the airport’s surrounding temperature and improve air quality.

Other features deployed at Changi include energy-efficient motion sensors and lighting, water-efficient fittings, and roof-mounted solar panels.

Main airlines that are committed to sustainability

To measure how “eco friendly” an airline is we must calculate the carbon emissions per kilometer and per passenger. This is calculated by examining the types of aircraft the carrier chooses to fly, seat and freight capacity, how many people are on the flight, and what kind of engines and winglets are used. Airlines that rank high in the Airline Index often fit as many passengers as possible into an aircraft and choose to fly up-to-date airplanes that use less fuel, like the Boeing 787-9, Airbus A350-900 and the A320neo.

Interestingly, the most eco friendly airlines are predominantly smaller carriers. You probably won’t have even heard of them. According to the Airline Index, it’s down to their high capacity seating and policies of renewing aircraft every two or three years. In fact, many of the world’s big name airlines scored poorly on atmosfair’s Airline Index. Singapore Airlines, which often comes top of the charts, came in at just 67. Virgin Atlantic was at 83 while Emirates ranked 108.

European Airlines Are The Most Eco Friendly

It seems that European airlines take the topic of sustainability super seriously. Three out of the top five eco friendly airlines are based in Europe. On top of that, when we take a look at the top ten, we find seven European airlines among the most eco friendly airlines. And when taking a look at the top 30, you will recognize that European airlines account for 33%. I’d say:

Here’s the complete list of the leading airlines when it comes to sustainability.

RankAirlineContinentEco Points
1TUI AirwaysEurope79.3
2LATAM BrasilSouth America78.8
3China West AirAsia77.8
7Thomas Cook*Europe74.7
8Air Europa ExpressEurope73.4
10Juneyao AirlinesAsia70.9
12Air EuropaEurope70.7
13Air New ZealandAustralia70.5
14Vietnam AirlinesAsia70.4
15Beijing Capital AirlinesAsia69.8
16S7 AirlinesAsia69.2
18Virgin AustraliaAustralia68.5
19Air New Zealand LinkAustralia68.3
20Air CaraibesNorth America68.2
21AviancaSouth America67.9
22Alaska AirlinesNorth America67.4
23Shandong AirlinesAsia67.4
24Sichuan AirlinesAsia67.4
25Thai AirwaysAsia67.4
26Air TransatNorth America67.1
28Air India ExpressAsia66.8
29Hong Kong AirlinesAsia66.2
30Shenzhen AirlinesAsia66.1

* Thomas Cook ceased operations in 2019

Let’s see some examples of why these airlines are the most sustainable:

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines shows great transparency with regards to their CO2 emissons and other steps they are taking to improve their impact on the environment. They are always looking for innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of their services, and steps that they have taken so far have included going strawless, composting grounds from coffee served in flight, and using avionics to use the 'Greener Skies' approaches in order to cut fuel consumption. The airline has also formed a partnership with the Port of Seattle and Boeing with the aim to power all flights by all airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with sustainable biofuel.

Delta Air Lines

Delta is taking steps to improve their environmental impact - largely with regards to their fuel emissions, but also with regards to water waste, hazardous waste, and implementation of a recycling program. On Earth Day 2019, Delta laid out plan for the future and made clear its intentions to invest in carbon offset by buying around 50,00 carbon offsets. Delta is also in the process of removing all single-use plastic items from their flights. This includes items such as stir sticks, wrappers and utensils. In total, Delta is estimated to remove over 300,000 pounds in plastic waste each year. In March 2020, Delta Air Lines announced its commitment of $1 billion over the next 10 years on its journey to mitigate all emissions. In 2021, the airline will continue to invest in driving innovation, advancing clean air travel technologies, accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions and waste, and establishing new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions.

American Airlines

American Airlines has committed to invest in modern, more efficient aircraft - whether this be investing in brand new aircraft, or upgrading planes not yet ready for retirement. The airline looks for innovative ways to reduce costs and emissions, including installation of winglets to wing ends, shaving weight on aircraft, paperless cabins, and implementation of one-engine taxiing. In 2020, the airline announced its goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Since 2008, KLM's climate action plan has ensured that the airline is more sustainable in the sky and on the ground. Responsable waste management, material recycling and measures to decrease noise pollution are just a few ways in which KLM has made steps to improve the environmental impact of the company.


Jetblue is committed to improving the airline's environmental impact, and is proud to be transparent with regards to the steps taken in doing so. The airline committed to moving away from using diesel and petrol for ground based electric equipment as bag tugs and belt loaders. In 2013, Jetblue introduced an onboard recycling program, alongside a partnership with Dunkin' Donuts, Jamba Juice and Royal Waste Services to compost food waste at JFK Airport's Terminal 5. The 'Jetblue T5 Farm' at New York's JFK Airport is the world's first blue potato farm based at an airport, and the T5 Rooftop is the only post-security outdoor space at a New York airport.

United Airlines

United Airlines is committed to a number of processes to ensure that the environmental impact of the company is as low as possible. This includes fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, using sustainable products, investing in sustainable fuel sources, and creating and maintaining partnerships to promote sustainability and protect the environment. In 2018, it announced that it would reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2050. In June 2019, United launched a 'flight for the planet', which at the time, was billed as the most eco-friendly flight of all time. The carbon-neutral flight used sustainable biofuel and eliminated all cabin waste. Statistics from this flight included 3.3% of fuel was saved compared to a typical flight, 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide was offset, which made up for the aircraft’s fuel consumption and also waste was down by about a third. United plans to learn from this flight, and turn these short-term initiatives into widespread policies.


Easyjet is committed to reduction of carbon emissions, and invests in projects to ensure that the environmental impact of the airlne is as minimal as possible. Example projects include new fleet investment, seat-weight reduction due to investment in new lightweight Recaro seats, paperless cockpits, adding 'sharklet' wing tips, and the addition of 6 more seats to existing A320 aircraft.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific endeavors to 'be the world's best airline' and focuses particularly on the following environmental issues: climate change, waste, air quality, noise, water, conservation, and biodiversity. The Cathay Pacific 'Fly Greener' programme gives Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon passengers the opportunity to reduce the carbon dioxide generated from air travel in a simple, credible way. Customers are able to purchase carbon offsets for their journeys, and the airline offers an online carbon offset calculator which allows passengers to work out what their journeys will use, and what they can buy to help to offset this.


Ryanair classes itself as 'Europe's greenest, cleanest airline', and was the first airline to commit to being plastic free by 2023. The airline's commitment to sustainability includes the following priorities: offering customers to offset the carbon cost of journeys, investing in new Boeing 737-MAX-200 aircraft, operating only point-to-point routes with industry-leading load factors, conducting operational efficiency, adding winglets to wings, and using single-engine taxiing between the runway and terminal.


In February 2018, Heathrow Airport named Flybe the most environmentally friendly airline using Heathrow. The use of the Bombardier Q400 aircraft is the quietest aircraft in the world, with a noise footprint almost seven times smaller than single-aisle and wide-body aircraft. They are also as fuel efficient as an eco-friendly car, producing emissions that are 30-40% lower than other aircraft.

British Airways

British Airways strives to conduct business activities in an environmentally friendly manner, and does this by committing to preventing pollution as much as possible, reducing pollution impact to be as low as possible, protecting the natural environment, reducing carbon emissions per passenger, reducing noise per flight, and minimising wasted through increase of material re-use and recycling. In June 2019, British Airways revealed its newest eco-friendly feature to the premium economy cabin. Since then, passengers travelling in the World Traveller Plus cabin receive new amenity kits made from recycled materials such as plastic bottles. British Airways also has plans to create a plant that will turn everyday household and commercial waste into jet fuel to be used for its airplanes. The legacy carrier plans to build the plant on a site in Lincolnshire and predicts that it will transform more than 500,00 tonnes of waste into fuel a year.


Loganair is forthcoming as the leading pioneer of electric aircraft. The Scottish regional airline wants to start using electric-powered planes by 2021 for their flights between Westray and Papa Westray in a bid to reach their goal to become carbon neutral. Loganair are already making themselves more environmentally friendly, with their use of renewable energy produced in Orkney.


The Australian airline Qantas has recently made a pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and reduce 75% of waste to landfill by the end of 2021. They've also committed $50 million over the next 10 years to develop a sustainable aviation fuel in Australia.

Hi Fly

Cutting the quantity of plastic used has been crucial to Hi Fly's sustainability commitment. In January 2019, the Portuguese airline Hi Fly carried out the first single-use plastic-free flight; by Jan 2020, the airline became the world’s first ‘single-use plastic-free’ airline, with no single-use plastics used onboard.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic's top environmental policy is concerned with aircraft fuel and reduction of carbon emissions, alongside aircraft waste and noise, combined ground operations, and supply chain work.


Etihad Airways are partnering with the Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center on a project to explore how municipal waste can be converted into jet fuel. One of the aims of the project is to use the final jet fuel on Etihad Airways' flights. This shows the commitment that the airline has towards cutting-edge environmental advances, and reducing the airline's dependency on fossil fuels.

Xiamen Airlines

In 2018, Xiamen Airlines launched a number of themed flights as part of its #WEINACTION campaign. The themed flights included customised meals, videos, radios and souvenirs that were used to raise awareness for 'life on land' and to protect terrestrial biodiversity. Xiamen Airlines continues to operate these themed flights periodically.

Air Canada

Air Canada began reducing the use of single-use plastic on all of its flights in 2019. The airline started by eliminating plastic drink stirrers with wooden drink stirrers, which will get rid of 35 million plastic drink stirrers yearly. In 2020, the airline progressed in it's work toward carbon-neutral growth for international aviation, and continued to support the development of lower-carbon Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) in Canada.

China Airlines

China Airlines offers 'ECO TRAVEL Carbon Offsetting' — a service that gives passengers the ability to partake in carbon offsetting and reduce the carbon footprint and emissions during their flight. ECO TRAVEL Carbon offsetting lets China Airlines passengers track the emissions from their flight and — through UK company ClimateCare — gives them the opportunity to offset the carbon footprint with environmentally friendly carbon reduction projects.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines

SAS Scandinavian Airlines have set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 25% from 2005 to 2030. The airline has stated that updating its fleet and using biofuels will be the main two factors in achieving this. In 2018, the airline took in an order of Airbus A320 neo, which has reduced fuel consumption and emissions by roughly 15%. Furthermore, the airline plans to replace the amount of fuel used on all of its domestic flights with sustainable biofuel. SAS has also invested in a carbon offsetting program which offsets for all business, Youth and EuroBonus passengers, as well as offering all other passengers the same option. In 2019, SAS announced that it'll stop selling duty-free items inflight. This will help will reduce the overall weight carried on the aircraft and therefore result in the airline using less-fuel per flight.

Cape Air

Cape Air have the intent to order a number ("double digit") of Eviation Alice aircraft - an electric, 9 seater aircraft which is built from 95% composite materials, and set to be the first fully electric aircraft to enter commercial service.

Looking to the future: electric aircraft

Throughout recent years, pioneers have been working on disruptive technologies in propulsion engineering. Recent successes with electric propulsion and hydrogen seem to be the driving force for modern and sustainable aviation. Although this shift faces numerous challenges, these pioneers are gaining credibility. The big industry players are responding to these trends by launching large-scale innovation projects – with governments supporting them politically and financially, creating a dynamic for change. What are those innovations ? What are the advantages and the limits ? What did we already achieve ?

Since the introduction of jet engines more than 80 years ago, the aviation industry has undergone spectacular innovation – yet the fundamentals have stayed the same. Today, the aeronautics industry needs to reinvent itself as it faces critical challenges. The industry contributes 2% of worldwide CO2 emissions and must lower its environmental impact in order to respond to evolving consumer demands and regulation. Up until now, aviation has had a fragmented approach to tackling this challenge and now more drastic measures must be implemented. Here is what could be the future of aviation.

Electric Aircrafts with batteries – already a reality


  • Zero emissions, zero noise
  • Technology ready and improving quickly
  • First plane certified


  • Heavy (reduce payload)
  • Short autonomy
  • Charging Time

Electric planes are no new invention having participated in aviation circles since the 1970s. For decades, these planes were experimental devices with little range and almost zero payload. In recent years, the number of electric aircraft projects has exploded and thanks to the innovations cited below, commercial-electric flights appear imminent.

The main advantage of battery-powered electric propulsion is its minimal impact on the environment. With zero flight emissions, this is by far the cleanest way to operate an aircraft. Not yet entirely clean however, as the manufacturing and recycling of batteries must be factored into the overall impact assessment. Another prominent advantage of electric propulsion is that it is quasi-silent. This presents a strategic advantage to combat noise pollution which over recent years has become a legitimate environmental issue in airports. These factors begin to explain why manufacturers and pioneers are pushing electric aviation to the forefront.

Since 2016, electrically propelled aircraft projects have begun to flourish. Originally, these planes lacked functionality due to their battery-induced weight inbalance – often reaching maximum weight with one pilot, and having an airborne capacity of only a few minutes. However, there has recently been a shift in battery technology. Thanks to innovations borrowed from the automotive industry, the power of batteries has increased significantly to allow up to an hour-long flight. Battery manufacturers have improved their power-to-weight ratio (power delivered divided by weight), charging time and increased the autonomy of the aircraft on the whole.

With consistent innovation becoming the norm, the number of electric flights has boomed since 2019. In less than 18 months : H55 flew a BRM Aero equipped with its EPS (Electric Propulsion System) in June 2019. Ampaire flew a Cessna 337 with a hybrid engine in June 2019. Magnix flew a commercial Beaver from Harbour Air (Canada) in December 2019 – then flew a Cessna Caravan in may 2020. The shift can be shown through the size of the aircrafts. In June 2020, The aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel received EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) type certification for the battery-powered Velis Electro, the very first electric aircraft certified in the world. Easyjet have also decided to initiate the development of their short-haul commercial-electric flights in partnership with Wright Electric. Electric commercial flights now seem attainable.

Whilst recent trends show intermittent progress in the aviation industry, there has been a seismic shift in credibility for electric propulsion and battery-power. The industry now recognises electricity as a feasible alternative to small aircrafts and short commercial flights. For the time being, long-haul electric aircrafts do not seem realistic. The power necessary to fly a Boeing 787 or Airbus A350 would require a tremendous weight of battery that is not yet achievable. Such projects have been halted, such as the E-Fan X project (Airbus and Rolls Royce), abandoned in April 2020 due to the health crisis.

Today, electric aircrafts powered by batteries are only a reality for small aircrafts. While we know we won't yet see electric long-haul aircrafts in the next 20 years, recent innovations have taken the concept to new scale and break down barriers every month. Nevertheless, another technology could allow electric propulsion without the limitations of batteries: Hydrogen and fuel cells.

Electric Aircraft with Hydrogen (fuel cells) – future long-haul aircrafts


  • Zero emissions, zero noise
  • Long distance
  • Autonomy and refueling


  • No experience of mass market
  • Storage constraints
  • Difficulty to get green hydrogen

Since the NASA Gemini space program of the 1960s, hydrogen has been applied in aerospace in two different ways : fuel cells and combustion. Now it represents a prominent trend in electric propulsion as a means to drastically reduce the environmental impact of the aviation industry.

It is important to note that hydrogen does not offer an alternative to electric motors, it is an alternative to batteries. Hydrogen replaces the need for batteries as it is directly transformed into electricity through fuel cells. This electricity is then used in the same electric motor as previously mentioned. These fuel cells generate zero emissions, only water. This is why (green) hydrogen is a great asset for clean aviation.

The advantage of fuel cells is that it escapes the problem posed by heavy batteries. Indeed, by producing electricity directly from hydrogen, batteries are no longer necessary – only a light alternative for temporary storage. Fuel cells are relatively light and possess a great power-to-weight ratio. However, they are not without their flaws: they take up a lot of space and the storage of a gas such as hydrogen is challenging, especially at high levels of altitude. Manufacturers are only just beginning to understand how to manage this technology. The first fuel-cell flight worldwide was in September 2020 with ZeroAvia who managed to fly a modified Piper Malibu.

Unlike batteries, the power-to-weight ratio of fuel cells allow them to be eligible for long-haul travel. This is the reason Airbus decided to work on a zero emission hydrogen-powered aircraft for 2035. They presented hybrid concepts using hydrogen fuel cells with hydrogen combustion in modified gas turbine engines.

Hydrogen also has the advantage of being easily accepted within industry. Existing infrastructures have the capacity to refuel and could easily be tweaked for hydrogen –batteries would require a drastic transformation of the aeronautics industry’s value chain.

As with any large-scale transition, there is a political agenda to consider. The European Commission is pushing the development of Hydrogen, notably to compensate for its increasing gap in battery manufacturing. By betting on hydrogen, European countries position themselves strategically among future energy markets. With large-scale investment from global players such as Air Liquide and Engie, and government aid (Germany, France, UK, Norway), the aeronautics industry can count on strong support for this sector to develop.

Hydrogen is therefore positioned both as a complement and an alternative to batteries. Aviation will need these technologies to coexist in order to significantly reduce the industry’s environmental impact.

Electric and hybrid engines to reduce emissions

Because of the significant technological challenges to delivering a commercial air transport aircraft with electric propulsion, we believe that the best way to lower the aviation industry’s carbon footprint is to begin with hybrid-electric propulsion.

This is technologically feasible, and, if smartly planned, will ensure corporate viability and growing job opportunities. Hybrid-electric propulsion for smaller aircraft is the place to start.

We believe that to power a regional, hybrid-electric aircraft with usable range and less than 50 passengers, the energy and power density of current batteries will need to double. We believe there is a path to achieve this in the next few years, and that a hybrid-electric passenger aircraft with 50 passengers or fewer and a range of less than 500 miles will be certified within the next 10 to 15 years. Looking further ahead, to make a single-aisle, 100-seat hybrid-electric aircraft viable will require that densities double yet again. This capability is probably at least an additional 10 years beyond the regional case. This is a 4x density improvement over 15 years.

The challenge is obvious when you consider that it took us 30 years to improve the power density from a 1980’s-era, large commercial air transport aircraft by 50 percent.

The aviation industry is ahead of the technology curve with regard to commercial hybrid-electric propulsion, and this is a big reason why Boeing, Airbus, Collins Aerospace and others are investing now in the R&D necessary to make commercial aircraft hybrid-electric and electric propulsion a reality. If you’re behind the curve in a high-tech industry like aerospace and defense, it’s difficult to catch up. If you try to time the curve—if you try to stay on the curve—that’s not leadership and it won’t deliver innovation. As an industry, it’s crucial that we stay ahead of the curve.

The challenges presented above should not be seen as arguments for delaying work on both commercial hybrid-electric and electric propulsion. In fact, the strongest argument for proceeding rapidly is this: The results for OEMs, airlines, passengers and our environment will be worth it.

Internal United Technologies Corporation studies indicate that commercial hybrid-electric and electric propulsion could:

  • Reduce aircraft noise up to 85 percent *
  • Improve fuel consumption up to 40 percent **
  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20 percent **
  • Reduce airline operating and maintenance costs up to 20 percent ***

* Electric propulsion ** Hybrid propulsion *** Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion.


Batteries are a key technology for hybrid and electric propulsion, but they will have to reach a level of energy density of around 350 Wh/kg at the level of the entire battery pack within the next 5 years. New batteries are being studied to improve energy density in order to reduce weight.

Today, automotive batteries reach energy densities on the order of 100 Wh/kg (at pack level), and approximately 30–50 Wh/kg for commercial aviation (as a supplementary power source). These differences result from certification and qualification constraints. As explained in the next section, aviation must be very conservative in its qualification of batteries, so the safety margins for battery charging and discharge are very stringent. Reaching 350 Wh/kg is thus a real technological challenge.

Battery Charging

The standard charging system for batteries in current prototypes requires approximately 3–4 hours for a full charge.

In the case of hybrid aircraft, the industry needs to create a charging system that is adapted to the specific characteristics of the batteries that will be developed and that can be used for recharging during flight.

Currently, there is no adequate electrical infrastructure at airports for charging batteries. The definition and implementation of a dedicated system is of strategic importance. Connectivity to the network, aircraft access to the charging terminal, the safety and ease of the procedure, the billing system…all are subjects that require study and development.

Two challenges to be solved concern the heating and cooling of batteries and preservation of their durability and safety over time. This is why recharging methods (strategies, management, and controls) will need to be adapted to both the uses (e.g., frequency and charging time) and the technical specifications of the batteries (e.g., power, optimal recharging time, aging).

Operational Safety and Prediction of Remaining Charge

Beyond the energy density constraint, the development of lithium-ion/lithium-polymer batteries for aviation applications—for propulsion in particular—presents two major obstacles:

1. Achievement of a level of operational safety that allows the battery to be certified

Improvements in safety and reliability are paramount. Overheating of the battery pack would put the aircraft at risk and therefore cannot be tolerated. For aeronautical applications, the most feared event is a fire. ­Standards require that no flames or smoke emerge from the battery pack inside the aircraft. (In comparison, for an automobile, standards under development will require the prevention of flame or smoke for 5 minutes in the passenger compartment only, to give passengers time to get out.)

Thales/Boeing certified the 787 Dreamliner’s lithium-ion batteries, but then experienced several fires during the aircraft’s operation, including a “thermal runaway.” This led to a design review and the decision to provide both better protection around the battery and a means to evacuate gases from the aircraft. These measures increased the airplane’s drag, thus countering the interest in switching to lithium-ion batteries in the first place. SAFT/Airbus was unable to certify the A350 XWB’s lithium-ion battery and had to revert to nickel-cadmium technology. In a lightweight aircraft, Siemens had a battery fire that killed two people, which led to discontinuation of the project.

2. Ability to predict remaining energy in the battery pack with acceptable accuracy

Current lithium-ion battery systems have a state-of-charge indicator. The accuracy of these indicators is generally acceptable at the start of life under standard conditions of use (5–7 percent for smartphone applications, 3–5 percent for automotive applications). However, under extreme conditions of use (for example, in extreme cold or during high power demands), the accuracy of this indicator (as well as the actual power output) can be greatly degraded. Reduced accuracy also can occur at the end of the battery’s life. For an aeronautical propulsion application, estimating the ­battery’s state of charge is a critical function.

Coordination of Other Parameters

Other important parameters for batteries are safety, fast rechargeability by the internal combustion engine, life­span (approximately 2,500 cycles), volume, and price.

Implementation of innovative battery technology will require coordinated efforts involving the aircraft, its electronics, the battery packaging, and integration into the aircraft (taking into account weight/volume constraints and maintenance challenges). The following steps will help guide efforts:

  • Define an optimized electrochemistry based on ideal trade-offs among safety, energy, lifetime, and price.
  • Define the most generic battery cell format possible.
  • Guarantee good “processability” and the potential for industrial manufacturing.
  • Make the best choices in terms of electronic architecture (e.g., redundancy, controls).
  • Integrate all the components of the aircraft’s electrical system (e.g., propulsion systems, control systems, instrument panel) while respecting certification ­standards.
  • Choose the best cooling solution (e.g., heat sink, oil or air cooling, two-phase).
  • Define and optimize the mechanical installation and conditioning of the battery for weight reduction while meeting aeronautical standards (e.g., choice of materials, partitions, connectors; management of mechanical safety, fasteners, and shock and vibration constraints; accessibility for maintenance).
  • Ensure redundancy by creating modules that will cross-feed the engines, which will avoid handling problems for the aircraft if one or more of the engines fails.

A New Way Forward for Pilots

For pilots, the introduction of hybrid electric propulsion will modify the management of energy in flight and the type of information to be processed. It will therefore be necessary to rethink the presentation of information (the amount and nature) and the decision-making mode linked to energy management. These changes in flight management will impact certain aspects of pilot training. This area should be investigated, along with flight safety and program compliance for obtaining pilot licenses. Cockpits will need to be more “intelligent” and provide the right level of information to the pilot for power management.

The environmental impact of aviation is a major concern in terms of both emissions and noise. Some ­people are even seeking to reduce their reliance on air transportation.

Hybrid and electric propulsion for aircraft is an option to reduce both emission and noise levels. However, various challenges must be resolved to enable the introduction of electric aircraft capable of transporting hundreds of people. For example, the energy density of batteries is too low to allow the development of an all-electric aircraft with a decent range. And improving the safety and reliability of electric drive chains is essential for aircraft to be certifiable.

Despite these challenges, several companies around the world are pursuing efforts to develop technologies applicable in the aeronautical field, particularly for general aviation. This process can be considered “revolution by evolution.”

Training on sustainable aeronautics

Air transport is an essential element in any sustainable development policy since it contributes greatly to enriching a series of economic and social activities that must operate under a sustainability perspective.

Multiple organizations in the sector claim that in the next twenty years air transport will continue to grow at a faster rate than that of the economy and that, consequently, its weight in collective business activity will increase.

All the elements of air transport sustainability (physical and economic accessibilities, accidents, security) seem to be adequately on track and with prospects for improvement at worldwide scale, except for the problem of environmental impact, which constitutes the great crossroads to be resolved in the medium-term future.

The only possible alternative would be the imposition of measures that restrict the growth of the sector, either by increasing the cost of a direct tax on CO2 emissions, or by implementing a global system of market mechanisms that would allow enough revenue to be raised. money to get emission reductions in other sectors where it is cheaper.

Regarding the environment, the focus will be on improving the system’s energy efficiency and therefore reducing CO2 emissions, also motivated by the increasing importance of fuel costs, which exceed 30% of the total costs of the airlines.

The objective of the Master in Sustainable Air Transport Management is to train our students to occupy managerial positions in airports, airlines, as well as in companies associated with airports and aviation in general (commercial concessionaires, air navigation service providers, manufacturers of the aeronautical industry , construction companies, etc.), handling companies, security companies, maintenance companies, equipment supply companies, etc.

This postgraduate program whose fundamental pillar is sustainability in air transport has been developed in accordance with the goals and objectives of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The MATSM diploma is jointly issued by ITAérea and the United Nations and it should be noted that the graduation ceremony takes place at the United Nations Palace in Geneva, Switzerland.

Every student trying to start focusing on masters in aerospace engineering or msc aerospace engineering will find our msc in air transport management as the best option to develop a succesful carrer in the industry.

Master's degree in aeronautical engineering or master's degree in aerospace engineering can overview similar aspects a student can approach in previous studies. However, our advanced master in air transport management will show you a different perspective of the aerospace industry that other aerospace masters can not show.

What benefits does our Air Transport Management Master provide?

Taught in English, the MATSM allows students to learn from the experience of top-level managers with more than 20 years of experience. You will be able to know first-hand the techniques and procedures carried out for the sustainable and efficient management of air transport companies. This postgraduate program is focused on proactive, productive discussion based on the dilemmas that arise in the governance of the company.

The student will acquire a deep understanding of the sustainable management of the airport and aeronautical sectors from an organizational point of view, starting with airports and continuing with airlines, aeronautical law, the aeronautical industry and air navigation.

What positions do our teachers occupy?

All the teachers assigned to this postgraduate program are high-level professionals with vast experience in the air transport industry. They originate from more than 10 different nationalities (Europe, USA, Latin America, the Middle East, etc.). These professionals hold senior management positions in companies and institutions such as:

Arup • Mott MacDonald • SAS Ireland • Leadin Aviation Consulting • AENA • Vinci Airports • AERTEC Solutions • AIRBUS • Augusta Abogados • IAG Cargo • SAERCO • ENAIRE • GATCO • ITP Aero • Aeropuerto de Albacete • Hong Kong Express Airways • easyJet • KPMG • AERIS Costa Rica • Grupo Puntacana • Ryanair • Gestair • IBERIA Airlines • Clyde & Co. • AA2000 • WALA • DANTE Aeronautical

If you wish to receive more information about the Master in Sustainable Air Transport Management you may contact ITAérea through or through our contact form.

Main master's degrees and courses of ITAérea

Master in Air transport management of ITAérea

In 2010, ITAérea Aeronautical Business School started a process to implement e-learning training in parallel to the development of on-site training that it had been teaching since 2008.

This process responded to a clear objective of the School that aimed at offering all our students globally quality training, taught by high-level professionals, available 24 hours a day, etc.

Over the years, different phases associated with this process have been planned and executed, in which the simplicity of management and the interactivity of the virtual campus and of the academic materials by our students have always been sought. It should be noted that e-learning training is very useful for the student for the following reasons:

It allows the students to access the virtual campus in a comfortable way, from anywhere and at the time that best suits their needs.

The students are free to take the exams when they deem it appropriate (always within the period established by the academic calendar).

It provides the School and its teachers with the possibility of making use of the latest technologies to transmit to the students the concepts defined in the academic program.

It allows the students to interrelate and establish synergies with peers from anywhere in the world.

The tutoring and monitoring of the students by the School is carried out virtually and constantly. The academic department, made up of 40 tutors, monitors the student’s periodic control and draws up situation reports.

It is very useful in the circumstances in which we currently find ourselves, going through a period of confinement for health reasons.

What does e-learning training consist in?

ITAérea attaches great importance to the direct and reciprocal contact of the student with the teacher, since there is no better way to transmit the knowledge and vast experience of our teachers.

Thus, e-learning training in ITAérea is articulated following our own methodology called “e5”, which is based on the 5 basic pillars of online training: e-learning, expertise, efficiency, employability and enhancement and that ITAérea has been implementing it for many years.

The e-learning training takes place at the ITAérea Virtual Campus, where the students can access all the content of the training program:

Short and easy-to-view interactive presentations in which the contents are exposed in a clear and intuitive way. This guarantees a better understanding and dynamism for the student.

Updated and adapted international content.

Interactive review exercises, with which the student can reinforce the main concepts of each topic.

Complementary materials.

Online tutoring.

Chats and discussion forums.

Next, we would like to highlight some of the training programs that ITAérea offers in e-learning mode in English:



Undoubtedly, the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves are incompatible with on-site training, the School’s greatest asset, which will be taken up by the School at all of our international offices as soon as the authorities allow it.

We want to take this opportunity to report that all of our enrollment processes continue open at all of our international offices. You can send us a request for information about any of our programs through the email or through our contact form.

Career prospects

Industry 4.0 is giving rise to a growing demand for qualified professionals trained in efficient and environmentally friendly technologies and processes. Workers who want to be part of the next industrial revolution in the field of aeronautics must be endowed with a global knowledge of air transport.

The aeronautical industry is striving to mitigate its environmental impact, more pronounced because it directly affects the atmosphere. The European Commission has marked for this sector that in 2050 it must reduce its CO2 and NO2 emissions by 75% and 90%, respectively. Noise pollution should also get another drastic cut, in this case 65%. The industry works to achieve those goals and, in passing, also lighten its production costs.

Some analysts have compared the new generation of aircraft with the transformation that the trains underwent. Initially, as large consumers of coal, to give way to diesel-driven locomotives, to the current units, faster and quieter thanks to electricity.

It is very difficult to accurately describe the profile of the future professional in air transport, but what is clear is that we can intuit that the following will converge on that professional:

  • First, that professional must be disruptive. It must break with the established to be able to innovate or improve the existing. It is not just a matter of age, but a matter of mentality and determination towards an objective.
  • You must have technical knowledge that allows the development of processes in a more efficient and sustainable way.
  • You must know the negative effects that your work implies in your social, environmental, economic environment, etc.
  • Environmental awareness must be one of their priorities.
  • You must acquire specific tools for sustainable management of human, economic, social and environmental resources.
  • You should know that you occupy a place in the world and that the world institutions have created future goals that force you to adopt a certain behavior.

It is very frequent to read about the Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda, sustainability, etc. We believe that those professionals who understand well and get ahead of the knowledge of all this culture that permeates today’s society will have a guaranteed professional future.

Best aerospace engineering masters

As we already told, there are plenty of options if you want to study aerospace masters or msc in aerospace. Online aerospace engineering masters are now stablished as good options to check. One of the best aerospace masters programs present e-learning versions. However, if you are trying to develop your career, instead of looking for a ms in aerospace engineering or a master of science in aerospace engineering, you should consider to assist to the training programs ITAérea offers and we have previously mentioned.


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