Those things you may not even notice...

Environmental Operations

Preparing for a flight is a two-way process: while in the comfort of your home, you decide your holiday destination, pack according to safety recommendations, remember to bring your travel documents and arrive on time, at the airport, an entire team of professionals dedicate energy and effort to ensure your experience runs as smoothly as possible.

However, on our side, there are a whole raft of things that go on to prepare a flight for departure. Before you even step foot in the airport, a huge coordination exercise has taken place - and that is just for one flight. When you think that we have 99,700 flights on average across the industry every day, well I am sure you can appreciate the logistical challenge! Here are a few things you may not know we are doing to reduce emissions at various steps along the way:

  1. Ground handling – A lot of energy is required in order to power the vehicles and machinery involved in the ground-handling process: parking the aircraft, transporting the luggage to the hold, bringing the ramps to passengers for boarding and delivering the food and supplies before the flight. In this context, Lufthansa introduced the eSchlepper device in October last year, an all-wheel electric aircraft tug powered by lithium-ion batteries to reduce airport emissions. Moreover, the new electrification project unveiled at Sea-Tac Airport this year, which for its ground handling operations operates over 200 new electric vehicles and 600 electric charging points, is estimated to save 10,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. This impressive initiative is the equivalent of removing 1,900 cars from the road.
  2. Food, glorious food – From its care for the environment, Air France commissioned Catalan designer Eugeni Quitllet to design a new range of eco-tableware to mark its 80th anniversary. The cutlery is partly made with recycled plastic harvested from incoming flights to Paris. The range saves the equivalent of 40 tonnes of raw material annually on previous tableware. Bon appetite! Similarly, in the United States, JetBlue Airways and MarketPlace Development showcased a composting project which converts waste food from La Guardia Airport and JFK International Airport. The initiative has so far proven immensely successful by turning 58 tonnes of food waste into compost and providing 4,600 gallons of biodiesel from fryer oil.
  3. E-cars are welcome - This year, Helsinki and Sea-Tac Airports announced that they will be providing charging points for travellers to recharge their cars. The installations came as part of Helsinki Airport’s commitment to sustainability, whilst Sea-Tac has become North America’s leading provider of electric charging infrastructure at airports. The great news is that now you can drive your e-car to the airport and help reduce airport emissions at no extra cost!
  4. The big towers - Air traffic management plays a crucial role in flights, helping to guide aircraft safely through the skies and keeping a handle on sky traffic. The United States and the European Union are currently modernising their ATM systems through NextGen and SESAR respectively. These will not only improve airspace capacity, but also allow more efficient flight paths to be used through the use of satellite navigation. Additionally, organisations like CANSO are promoting global ATM improvement to achieve the same efficiencies across the globe.
  5. General operations – Many simultaneous activities happen within an airport every single moment: from the shops and restaurants at the service of customers in terminals to bathrooms and check-in procedures. Acknowledging that all these activities require huge amounts of energy and resources to be fully functional, the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme recognises those airports around the world that make an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. By July 2013, the airports within the programme accounted for an impressive 22% of global air traffic.

So next time you board a flight, take a second to think about all the 'behind the scenes' operations that need to happen to make your experience run safely, smoothly and enjoyably, from delivering your luggage and meal to the technicalities of air traffic and navigation. For more information, please visit to read the latest in air transport.