Main WikiMiles News Fly without guilt with sustainable travel! Here are some of the key sustainability trends in the aviation industry in 2023 and beyond.

Fly without guilt with sustainable travel! Here are some of the key sustainability trends in the aviation industry in 2023 and beyond.

16 Mar 2023

In 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved a resolution calling for the global air transport industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While that date is still decades away, airlines around the world are leveling up their new initiatives to reduce environmental footprints.

The aviation industry’s motivation to become more eco-friendly stems from concerns about increased government regulation. With worsening environmental conditions brought about by climate change, airlines are worried about getting regulated because of their emissions contribution. As a result, they’re trying to get ahead of and drive the regulations instead of being told how to do and follow those. 

Dr. Jesko-Philipp Neuenburg, Managing Director and Global Travel and Aviation Sustainability Lead at Accenture, says public demand is also a factor behind airlines’ new sustainability initiatives. With environmental campaigners seeing overconsumption as a cause of global warming and viewing air travel as a symbol of “luxury emissions,” it is expected that climate activists will increase pressure on the industry this year. 

But pressure from consumers to take action on climate change is not all bad. In fact, it is seen by some airlines as an opportunity to differentiate themselves with more sustainable product offerings that can generate new growth.

Airlines are also expected to get more involved with emerging carbon capture technology in 2023. This could be in the form of using advances in battery technology to help make regional electric aviation a reality, buying carbon storage credits, or investing in companies that turn CO2 into E-Fuel. 

Below are some of the key sustainability trends that are expected to be seen in the aviation industry from 2023 to 2028: 

The Rise of eVTOLS 

By 2028, the industry is expecting to see normalization of eVTOLS or “air taxis” in major urban centers. Traveling through these vehicles will be as normal as taking an Uber or Lyft today. 

The eVTOL market is expected to be worth around USD 1.7 billion in 2028, with several manufacturing companies focused on the Los Angeles region, including Archer, Joby, Wisk, and Volocopter. In particular, Archer is already scoping out a Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to a Hollywood route on behalf of partner and investor United Airlines. Meanwhile, Joby has Delta Airlines on board as an investor and so is likely to offer transfers to and from Delta’s LAX hub. 

The democratization of eVTOLS will also be driven by pricing. The expectation is that eventually, prices will be as competitive as ride-sharing services, especially as breakthroughs in battery technology further reduce costs. 

The Rise of Regional Aviation 

By 2028, a regional aviation renaissance is expected to start as short-range electric and hydrogen aircraft begin to enter service. Additionally, cheap, low-noise, and low-pollution point-to-point regional and commuter flights will disrupt the current hub and spoke model, with lots of smaller airports coming back to life and seeing commercial air travel for the first time. 

Aside from offering environmental benefits, the next generation of regional and commuter aircraft could be potentially transformative for the communities they serve. This could then result in a regional air mobility revolution. 

This introduction will reverse the trend of many smaller regional airports losing commercial air services due to regional turboprop fleets being relatively expensive to operate. 

The Rise of Green Airports 

By 2028, a significant number of airports will have their own renewable-powered microgrids to power both the airport and provide an electric aircraft charging infrastructure. There will also be an increase in sustainable construction via new materials, and more airports will plan more ways to reduce their aircraft carbon emissions. 

Other than microgrids, sustainable construction and infrastructure will feature more prominently in airport buildings and designs. For example: The new King Salman International Airport in Riyadh, which is set to open in 2030, will not only be powered 100% by renewable energy but will also aim for LEED Platinum certification. 

There will also be experiments with sustainable concrete. For instance: The Indianapolis International Airport (IND) worked with Canadian company Carbon Cure in 2022 to lay a runway where the concrete has recycled CO2 injected into it. According to the airport, the amount of CO2 sequestered is equivalent to planting 1.2 million trees. 

The last element to be seen in sustainable airport design is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through the way airports taxi and land. For example: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) has a new pier layout concourse design, which allows for newer, larger, and more efficient aircraft. It also eliminates aircraft bottlenecks and congestion. 

In addition to greenhouse gas reduction, there’s also a tangible benefit to passengers in experiencing fewer delays. This is an excellent example of how sustainability initiatives can also improve the passenger experience. 

The Rise of Sustainable Cabin 

In 2028, circular cabins will be commonplace—with sustainable and reusable amenity kits, sustainable seat covers, and no single-use plastics. 

Although in-flight sustainability is a small part of the aviation sustainability puzzle, it is an important one from the passenger experience point of view because it is what the passenger sees and experiences. If a flight is powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the experience is the same as if it’s powered by fossil fuels. 

Local foods and produce grown by high environmental standards from the airline’s home country will also be more common in airline meals. Examples of these are food from Emirate Airlines’ Vertical Farms in Dubai and SAUDIA’s menus using food grown by Red Sea Farms, which implements sustainable farming by using lower energy and zero freshwater sustainable climate control. 

Lastly, passengers can also expect to see their amenity kits being made out of material that is already being used on an experimental basis. These include “banana tex,” or textile fabrics made from banana plants. 

Reaching the industry’s goal by 2028 and 2050 is quite an ambitious undertaking, but it is doable if progress continues at the appropriate pace. It is possible, although it will require significantly more investment and innovation to get there. The emissions reduction trajectory will also likely not be linear but rather follow an accelerating curve, with smaller reductions in the first decade and increasingly larger reductions in the second and third decade towards 2050.  

A fully sustainable aviation industry is just one part of the puzzle when it comes to creating a more eco-minded travel and tourism industry. It’s about time for the travel industry to move the dial on this more quickly once commitment to all forms of sustainable tourism and travel are displayed, and start engaging the public in the process. Unless the industry does that, the dial isn’t going to move much.

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