Heathrow expands airline league table to incentivise emissions reductions

The 50 busiest operating airlines at Heathrow Airport are being incentivised to reduce emissions and noise in their operations through a new public ranking system.

The inaugural league table was published this week, using data from January to March, and placed British Airways, Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways at the top of the rankings

The inaugural league table was published this week, using data from January to March, and placed British Airways, Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways at the top of the rankings

The Fly Clean and Quiet league table will be published every three months, awarding airlines with a red, amber or green rating across seven noise and emissions criteria. Alongside reputational boosts for the best performing airlines, Heathrow will engage with under-performing companies on how to improve performance and ratings.

“While the main contributor to local pollution remains road traffic, Heathrow is playing its part to improve air quality by reducing emissions from its vehicles, buildings and aircraft,” Heathrow’s director of sustainability Matt Gorman said.

“We are excited to add a whole new dimension to the league table and have another tool to help airlines to reduce their impact on air quality. Together, we can play our part to improve our local environment and help the UK and London governments meet their air quality targets.”

The inaugural league table was published this week, using data from January to March, and placed British Airways, Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways at the top of the rankings for cleanest and quietest fleets.

The new league table is an expanded platform of the Heathrow Fly Quiet programme, which has tracked airline noise performance since 2013. Two emissions-based criteria have been added, scoring airlines on the type of engine used and the NOx emissions per seat. The new table also includes a metric to track unscheduled airline operations between 23:30 and 04:30 at night.

Heathrow 2.0

Fly Quiet and Clean forms part of Heathrow 2.0, the airport’s upgraded sustainability strategy. Heathrow 2.0 features a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy, the development of a Centre of Excellence for sustainable aviation, and the carbon-neutral expansion to the third runway as key targets to be reached.

In 2017 alone, Heathrow increased the number of arrivals that have landing fees linked to NOx emissions by 100%, while also encouraging airlines to reduce engine taxing. A £20m investment into technology such as pre-conditioned air – allowing aircrafts to turn engines off – has also been introduced and Heathrow is aiming to increase the use of this technology by 20% in 2017.

A report from the Independent Transport Commission (ITC), suggested that technology could mitigate the environmental impacts of the third runway expansion.

The airport – which is the first in the world to simultaneously hold four certifications from the Carbon Trust Standard – also announced a £2m plan to 'go electric' with the installation of more than 135 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations around the area, as well as engineering new zero-carbon, fully autonomous, battery-operated carrier pods to act as shuttles around the streets of Greenwich.

With the UK planning to reduce emissions by 57% by 2032 – and by 80% by 2050 – as part of the approved Fifth Carbon Budget, critics have questioned how the airport expansion will align with these national policies.

In April, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) criticised the UK Government for refusing to commit to air quality targets in relation to the third runway expansion, labelling the associated carbon calculations as a "fantasy".

Matt Mace


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