Qatar Stopover takeover skin safe left
Qatar Stopover takeover skin safe right
Home Travel To Change The World

Greenliner: Etihad Airways flight reduces carbon emissions by 72%

The green dream is getting closer thanks to Etihad Airways who last week flew its most sustainable flight ever, reducing carbon emissions (CO2) by 72% in absolute terms compared to Etihad's equivalent flight flown in 2019.

The green dream is getting closer thanks to Etihad Airways who last week flew its most sustainable flight ever, reducing carbon emissions (CO2) by 72% in absolute terms compared to Etihad’s equivalent flight flown in 2019.

The London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi flight took off on Saturday 23 October and was part of the Etihad Greenliner Programme – a two-year partnership between Etihad and Boeing using Etihad’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet as a testbed for sustainability improvements in partnership with organisations across the industry.

The project required huge collaboration across the aviation ecosystem to deliver a sustainable in-flight product, coordination with airspace management for optimised flight routing, new technology flight deck tools, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), contrail reduction and airport handling processes.

In an industry-first, EY20 was the first commercial flight to explore contrail-avoidance. Working with UK-based SATAVIA, the team identified potential areas of ice supersaturated regions in the atmosphere where harmful contrails are likely to form, and the flight route was adjusted to avoid these areas.

Based on the original and adjusted flight plan, the strategy avoided the production of approximately 64 tonnes of CO2e, with a fuel penalty of only 100kg, or 0.48 tonnes CO2.

“These are noteworthy savings,” said Mohammad Al Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer, Etihad Aviation Group. “When Etihad committed to achieve net-zero, it was acknowledged that it was only possible if the airline worked collaboratively and positively with our industry partners.

“That is exactly what Etihad has done with the Sustainable Flight. Of equal importance, Etihad, Boeing and its partners – airports, ANSP, and suppliers – used the flight to learn where further improvements could be made,” he said.

Watch the video to find out more

The contributions covered three phases, planning, in-flight and post-flight. This included preparing the aircraft, engines and route planning systems to optimise take-off, en-route and landing flight paths and trajectories, minimising contrail formation, working with our guests to reduce their luggage and rewarding those that travelled light.

Etihad provided catering that was appropriately sourced and served on sustainable crockery and with lightweight cutlery. The crockery itself is part of a circular recycling process where they are returned to the manufacturer at the end of their serviceable life and ground down to its raw material and remade.

Travellers were also provided with environmentally friendly plant-based water bottles and limited-edition tote bags from upcycled aircraft materials.

Impressively, 80% of all single-use plastics were eliminated.

Once the aircraft touched down in Abu Dhabi, it was serviced by Etihad’s new fleet of electric vehicles for ground logistics such as baggage unloading. Where electric vehicles were unable to be used, Etihad purchased bio-diesel to fuel equipment such as the airline’s passenger coach service between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, meaning all passengers, including those transiting to Dubai, were completely carbon neutral for the entirety of their journey.

The data gathered from the aircraft’s sensors were added to Etihad’s growing database on flight performance and analysed using tools from Greenliner partner, GE Digital to improve understanding of flight performance and allow a quick recognition of unsustainable activities.

“A fundamental part of the Greenliner programme is to explore the art of the possible. It is well known that SAFs are a credible alternative to current fossil fuels, however, they are currently very expensive, and difficult to source and load onto the aircraft. EY20 was a dramatic example of those constraints wherein Etihad was unable to directly load the 38% SAF blend into the aircraft given inherent infrastructure constraints at Heathrow Airport. Instead, the SAF purchased by Etihad was loaded into the fuel hydrant system, which serves all airport users.

“While the EY20 did not in itself realise the full potential of the SAF, the potential benefit in CO2 reductions is real. Industry and governments must work together to address these issues through the funding of the research and development of SAFs and other parts of the planning and operating of flights. Etihad is looking forward to working on these issues,” Al Bulooki said.

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, added: “The entire emissions reduction we achieved on this flight was through the operational steps and efficiencies employed and did not rely on off-sets. Nonetheless, off-sets, if done rigorously, also play a part in our sustainable future. The UAE has a large stock of mangroves which present nature-based solutions.

“In addition to their ability to reduce pollution from water and the atmosphere, if maintained properly, mangrove forests have the potential to avoid the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. That is why each guest on board this Etihad flight will have a tree adopted for them in Abu Dhabi’s Jubail Island Mangroves plantations. Adoption involves the maintenance and reforestation of existing forests with carbon storage potential. This is an important initiative for greening the UAE.”

“Our single greatest learning from the past two years has been that even when solutions are available, they are not easily deployed on a regular basis due to constraints throughout the entire aviation ecosystem. What was demonstrated on EY20 was the art of the possible; the next step is to work on how these can be deployed sustainably,” said Al Bulooki. 

“That is the challenge Etihad faces and the challenge that Etihad accepts in collaboration with our partners. Etihad is determined to operate with sustainability as a core principle alongside safety and security, and is looking forward to many more of these small steps making a big difference.”