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With global warming at the forefront of the international agenda, airports and airlines must think of innovative ways to cut back on their carbon footprints. Recent developments within the industry like green airports, fuel alternatives, and carbon offsetting schemes demonstrate encouraging steps in the right direction.

Increased Aircraft Efficiency

The most obvious way airlines are cutting back on their carbon footprint is by increasing the efficiency of their planes, which in turn reduces the amount of fuel that is required for flights. There are a few key ways airlines are doing this:

Aerodynamics: Newer aircraft models are designed in such a way that reduces drag, allowing them to fly more efficiently, with refined winglets at the tips of wings to minimise vortex drag and smoother surfaces to reduce skin friction. Planes are also increasingly using more lightweight materials like carbon fibre to reduce their overall weight when compared to aluminium which is industry standard, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 XWB.

Engine Efficiency: Modern aeroplane engines are also designed to produce fewer emissions by using higher bypass ratios and more efficient combustion processes, combined with improved turbine materials. There is also the development of hybrid and electrical propulsion systems for larger aircraft, which is expected to significantly reduce the reliance on jet fuels alone.

Operational Improvements: Airlines now use very sophisticated software to plan more efficient routes and flight profiles. This is done by optimising altitudes, speeds, and routes to take advantage of more favourable winds and avoid unfavourable weather which saves fuel over the long term. Similarly, many airlines now practise single-engine taxiing to reduce fuel usage before and after takeoff.

While it is true that new aircraft models can be up to 20% more efficient than older models, and operational changes can increase fuel efficiency, increased aviation activity has historically outpaced efficiency improvements like these. This means that airports and airlines need to think broader than the aeroplanes themselves if they want to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

The Introduction of ‘Green Airports’

In September 2023, the Dutch government impressed the world with its announcement that Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was going to introduce a flight cap and bring the number of flights to 450,000, or 10% below 2019 levels.

While this flight cap grabbed headlines, many overlooked all the additional measures the airport has been taking to reduce its carbon footprint, such as:

  • Committing to using 100% renewable for its operations, sourcing power from Dutch wind farms and solar panel installations on its roofs and in its parking areas.
  • Replacing ground handling equipment with electric models.
  • Implementing water-saving water management systems to enhance biodiversity.
  • Exploring technologies like TaxiBot, a semi-robotic, pilot-controlled vehicle designed to tow aircraft from the gate to the runway and back without the need for the plane to use its engines.

A flight cap will make a big difference, but it is the combination of smaller measures like these where carbon footprints can be reduced bit by bit over time. However, this is a holistic approach and would require significant planning and investment to take effect.

Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Schemes

One of the most popular ways by which airports and airlines have sought to reduce their carbon footprint is by introducing carbon offsetting and reduction schemes.

San Francisco International Airport has been a leader in sustainability, launching various initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint. This includes transitioning to zero-emission vehicles, installing solar panels, and utilising alternative energy sources. SFO also encourages carbon offsetting through passenger awareness programs.

Similarly, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is the first airport in North America to achieve carbon neutral status, attributed to its comprehensive energy efficiency programs, use of renewable energy, and carbon offset program that includes local and global environmental projects.

In terms of airlines, Delta has committed to becoming carbon neutral and invests in a variety of offsetting projects, including reforestation and renewable energy projects. The airline also focuses on reducing its emissions through fleet renewal, improved operational efficiencies, and sustainable aviation fuels.

Furthermore, EasyJet offsets the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all of its flights by investing in projects that include renewable energy, forestation, and community-based initiatives, much like Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

The Future Direction of Airports, Airlines, and Carbon Footprints

Airports and airlines are aware that greener aviation is a major challenge. Not only does it require cross-company collaboration and agreement but it is also at the whim of domestic and international politics and regulations. Not to mention the fact that carbon footprint-reducing initiatives are often very expensive and require a lot of investment from both the public and private sectors.

A great way for airports and airlines to begin making positive steps is to consider their day-to-day operations and how they can be improved to reduce their short-term carbon footprints. Combined with innovative carbon offsetting schemes, this will see carbon footprints begin to reduce over time and then hopefully carbon offsetting airports and airlines will become the industry standard.

Another key challenge for these airlines and airports, however, is how to introduce these types of measures in the short term without passing the cost on to the customer.


Aviation is the main form of international transportation but the aviation industry must also take responsibility and work toward lowering its carbon footprint, which can only be done when airports, airlines, and aviation management companies work together.

Here at Flightworx, we stand at the forefront of eco-friendly aviation solutions, offering comprehensive support in jet fuel management, chartering services, and innovative flight logistics tailored to reduce your carbon footprint. Whether you’re an airline aiming to integrate sustainable practices or an airport seeking to implement green initiatives, our expertise can guide you towards achieving your environmental goals.Join us in shaping a more sustainable future for aviation. Contact us today, and let’s embark on this crucial journey towards reducing our carbon footprint together.

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