Sustainability Spotlight: How Airlines are Flying Green

Panasonic Avionics< Panasonic Avionics
05/10/22 3 MIN READ

Making flying sustainable can feel like a monumental task, but Aeromexico is proving it can be done thoughtfully and strategically without a massive company overhaul.

On May 11, Aeromexico passengers boarding a long-haul flight from Mexico City to Amsterdam, on aircraft N965AM, will be greeted by a minimal-waste cabin experience.

This flight is part of the Sustainable Flight Challenge, a multi-airline effort to make commercial flying less wasteful.

Other participating airlines include Delta, Air France/KLM, Air Europa, China Airlines, and Korean Air. This effort was conceived in 2021 by a group of 80 KLM employees dubbed “the Bold Moves” which is focused on promoting environmental projects, as well as other social missions, within the world of aviation.

Aeromexico’s Spin on the Sustainable Flying Challenge

In efforts to reduce the amount of waste generated in-flight, Aeromexico passengers on the May 11 flight will see a number of measures, including:

Aeromexico will also double their donations to Vuela Verde, the airline’s carbon offset program.

To support this program, Panasonic Avionics will provide free in-flight Wi-Fi on board aircraft N965AM, enabling passengers to connect on social media and report their experiences to the public.

Challenges and Opportunities in Sustainable Flying

Bringing sustainability to the commercial aviation industry is extremely difficult by nature.

Jet fuel—even when mixed with used cooking oil and other byproducts to produce sustainable aviation fuel—is a carbon intensive product. According to the website, a round-trip flight using conventional jet fuel burns 870 kilograms of CO2 per economy-class passenger.

The industry and its partners are continuously working on reducing onboard weight, improving aircraft engine efficiency, and other measures aimed at mitigating the carbon impact of flying.

The good news is that reducing airlines’ fuel consumption is not the only way to improve sustainability in the industry. In fact, introducing greener practices across the entire supply chain is a way of integrating sustainability at the core of aviation.

For instance, Panasonic Avionics is using electric vehicles for airport ground transportation in Amsterdam, bringing technical and maintenance workers between aircrafts and terminals—a change that helps airlines reduce flights’ overall carbon footprints. We are also working on improving manufacturing processes and conditions to reduce waste and emissions. Having partners invested in sustainability brings value beyond the act of flying which, as we know, is only one part of airlines’ business operations.

As well, Aeromexico’s efforts to reduce plastic, paper, and food waste shows us an area ripe for change. As IATA notes, “Passengers are increasingly worried about the impact of single-use plastics […] In the absence of smarter regulation, cabin waste volumes could double in the next 10 years.”

In 2017, the airline industry produced an estimated 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste, costing the sector almost $1 billion. This is according to IATA’s cabin waste handbook, written in collaboration with WRAP, a not-for-profit environmental organization. That same handbook notes that 20% of cabin waste is untouched food and beverage.

A smart cabin management system linked to online booking engines and passenger data could help better predict what food and beverage products passengers will consume, which in turn would allow airlines to optimize their inventory—a win-win situation for passengers and airlines. As well, these systems coupled with the in-flight entertainment system or onboard connectivity could produce just-in-time sales on products at risk of going to waste as a flight nears its destination.

Sustainability Goals Driving Innovation

Aeromexico’s participation in the Sustainable Flying Challenge, and the challenge itself, are positive steps forward in commercial aviation. These measures are evidence that creativity and innovation can drive sustainable solutions, and that a greener future in aviation depends on cross-industry collaboration.

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