November 3, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

As climate change and carbon emissions become increasingly urgent global issues – particularly for the travel industry and the international visitor economy – Etihad has revealed details of a late October flight between London and Abu Dhabi which showcased two years of progress in the airline’s efforts as part of their Greenliner Program to lower the impact of international movement.

A combination of sustainable aviation fuel and operational efficiencies reduced CO2 emissions of the flight by 39,000kg and fuel burn by 1,800kg, in comparison to flights on the same route in 2019.

Measures were taken to increase the sustainability of the flight at all stages of planning and operation of the flight, including preparation of the aircraft, engines and route planning systems to optimise all parts of the flight from take-off to landing, changing the route to avoid parts of the atmosphere where harmful aircraft contrails were likely to form, incentivising guests to travel lighter and even using lightweight cutlery for in-flight meals. The crockery on the flight is also part of a circular recycling program.

“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,” said Etihad Aviation Group’s Chief Operating Officer Mohammad Al Bulooki.

“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.”

“A fundamental part of the Greenliner programme is to explore the art of the possible. It is well known that SAFs [sustainable aviation fuel] 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,” said Al Bulooki.

He also indicated there was work to be done across the whole aviation ecosystem in order to combat emissions by the sector.

“EY 20 Sustainable Flight brought together a long list of small changes that had been developed over the past two years under the Greenliner Programme, which was designed to identify opportunities that are available today to reduce emissions, rather than waiting for future technologies.

“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 eco-system. What was demonstrated on EY20 was the art of the possible; the next step is to work on how these can be deployed sustainably.”