Virgin flights produce third less CO2

Virgin Atlantic has claimed that its $2bn (£1.2bn) fleet upgrade has resulted in up to 30% less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on some of its flights.

The airline has moved from an entirely four-engine fleet of aircraft, introducing 10 new twin engine Airbus 330-300s, each of which is around 30% more efficient on a per trip basis.

The figures are revealed in the airline’s 2013 ‘Change is in the Air Sustainability Report’, published yesterday.

The airline has a target to achieve 30% savings in CO2 for every tonne of passengers and cargo flown by 2020.

In 2012, the company’s carbon footprint (scope 1, 2 and 3) stood at 5.9 million tonnes CO2, with 80% of these from flying aircraft.

However, Virgin has reported that it continues to reduce its carbon footprint, which it ranks as its “number one priority”. Investing in fuel and carbon reductions is a “double win” said CEO Craig Kreeger.

“We fully accept our part in reducing the negative consequences of air travel so that we can all continue to make the most of its benefits. Our number one priority
is to reduce the carbon emissions from flying our aircraft,” he writes in the report.

Aviation currently accounts for about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions but they are increasing, hence the cause for concern.

Kreeger has been tasked with returning the airline to profitability – a target he has set for the end of the 2014 financial year.

“I want Virgin Atlantic to develop and grow, but I believe it is absolutely crucial that this growth happens in a sustainable way,” he said following the report’s publication. “I’m looking forward to working with our teams and continuing to push the boundaries in finding sustainable aviation solutions.”

Through its ‘Change is in the Air’ strategy, Virgin has committed to reduce its aircraft emissions by 30% per revenue tonne kilometer (RTK) from 2007 to 2020.

Five years into the target period and it has reduced the CO2 per RTK by 4%. The levels “crept up a little” between 2011 and 2012 due to the continuing difficult economic conditions and the carriage of “less freight”. Total aircraft CO2 emissions have reduced by 6% since 2007.

Virgin said the carbon savings programme has been boosted by the spending on new aircraft. As well as the twin engine Airbus planes, the savings will be complemented in 2014 by the introduction of the Boeing 787-9, which are around 21% more fuel efficient on a per trip basis than the aircraft they will replace.

Sixteen 787-9s will also be added to the fleet in the coming years as Virgin looks to become “the most sustainable airlines in the world”.

A robust fuel efficiency tool from OSyS was also introduced in 2012 and is already being used extensively to analyse other fuel efficiency initiatives, such as reduced engine taxi and lighter weight carts. Through complementary operational changes like this, the airline is expecting to save as much as £20m and close to 100,000 tonnes of carbon a year within the next five years.

A survey carried out for the report found that 90% of Virgin’s pilots said they ‘always’ or ‘often’ adopt flying and operational practices that save the business fuel, carbon emissions and money.

On the ground, Virgin Atlantic reduced its energy use by 10% between 2009 and 2012 and now diverts “over 75%” of its office waste from landfill.

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