The COVID-19 pandemic hit many airlines hard as tourism came to a halt. In saying that, travel is bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. Etihad Airways has certainly capitalised by posting record profits in the first half of last year. Besides its financial success, Etihad Airways has continued to push its sustainability strategy, focusing on reducing carbon emissions and enhancing overall environmental sustainability. Its 2022 sustainability report, published last month shared the carrier’s dedication to climate action through sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Sustainable aviation fuel, or as it is otherwise known, SAF, is a liquid fuel currently used in commercial aviation. It reduces carbon emissions by up to 80 percent and can be produced from numerous resources. SAF can also be produced synthetically via a process that removes carbon from the air.
The reason the fuel is environmentally friendly is because the raw feedstock it is made from does not compete with water supplies or food crops. Additionally, it does not contribute to forest degradation. While fossil fuels drive the climate crisis and raise CO2 levels, SAF recycles CO2 which has been absorbed by the biomass used in the feedstock during the course of its life.
The Etihad Airways sustainability report
Beyond Etihad Airways’ sustainability efforts with SAF, they are also working to reduce the use of plastics and are planting tens of thousands of trees as part of the Mangroves Forest project. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s annual sustainability report shared the airline plans on a 20 percent reduction in its passenger fleet by 2030.
Etihad Airways also plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In 2022, they achieved 482g in CO2 emissions per Revenue Tonne Kilometer (RTK). This was a 26 percent reduction from 2019. They are also the first foreign airline to receive SAF supply in Japan thanks to the ITOCHU Corporation and Neste MY Sustainable Fuel partnership. On October 27th of 2022, their Flight EY871 flew from Tokyo Narita to Abu Dhabi.
This was no ordinary flight as it was powered by a 39.66 percent sustainable fuel blend. The flight was part of an agreement for 50,000 gallons of SAF which reduced CO2 emissions by 75.2 tCO2. They operated the first net-zero flight using a book-and-claim system for purchasing SAF in November of 2022 in partnership with World Energy.
Summary – Etihad Airways’ next focus
Looking into the future, they will be partnering with Twelve and plan to operate flights with SAF made from CO2. Its carbon offset programme also had a great impact as they were able to plant 68,916 Mangrove trees in the Etihad Mangrove Forest project. The programme was launched in 2022 and enables travellers to adopt a mangrove tree for each seat they buy.
Their Greenliner Programme is another initiative and a means to make the aviation industry more eco-friendly through testing sustainable technologies like eco-conscious in-flight products. They first announced this programme in 2019 and operated more than 40 sustainable flights by the end of 2022. It’s fantastic to see a large company like Etihad achieving business success but still prioritising continuous improvement concerning sustainability.