There's no going around the fact that flying is bad for the environment. Around 2.5 percent of global CO2 emissions come from aviation, and that number is likely to increase as more people turn to the skies for travel. The good news is you don't have to give up flying to become a responsible traveler. There have been substantial developments in the aviation industry to reduce emissions, and many commercial airlines are leading the charge.
That said, some airlines are doing more than others. We've done the hard work for you, compiling a list of top 5 most sustainable airlines you can fly with today.
Etihad is taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation. The luxury airline is committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 through a range of green initiatives. In recognition of these efforts, Etihad was named "Environmental Airline of the Year 2022" at the annual Airline Ratings awards.
Etihad has partnered with several organizations to help reduce its carbon footprint. For example, the airline has joined forces with aviation giant Boeing to create The Etihad Greenliner Programme. The aim of the program is to test and implement new green technologies, including the use of sustainable alternative fuels (SAFs) and eco-friendly in-flight products.
Etihad has also taken other sustainable measures such as the use of machine learning to reduce food waste, cutting single-use plastics by 80%, adopting thousands of mangrove trees in the Etihad forest, and establishing the Corporate Conscious Choice program- a first-of-its-kind.
How to fly with Etihad Airways: Etihad serves 70 destinations in 43 countries, including three US cities and 20 European destinations. American Airlines is Etihad's largest partner in the United States. Thanks to this partnership, you can earn and redeem American AAdvantage miles when flying with Etihad.
EasyJet wants to lead the decarbonisation of aviation through its Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a roadmap to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Since 2019, the airline has been the first and only airline in Europe to offer free carbon offsetting for passengers. The company is now shifting away from offsetting and has set out on the next phase of its journey, focusing on new technologies with the ambition to achieve zero carbon emission flying across the entire fleet.
Recently, the airline secured a partnership with engine maker Rolls-Royce to test the use of hydrogen in turbofan engines. They've also added a fleet of modern, fuel-efficient planes, including Airbus neo aircraft, which are 15% more fuel efficient than older planes.
How to fly with EasyJet: EasyJet is a low-cost airline in Europe, serving nearly 200 destinations across Europe and Northern Africa. Expect cheap flights to most destinations, but you might have to pay more for extras like seat selection and luggage.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
KLM has been implementing numerous policies to reduce its environmental impact. The company has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 15% by 2030, and attain a net zero emission target by 2050 by the renewal of its fleet, eco-piloting, and the use of sustainable aviation fuel. Since 2017, they have supported a reforestation project in Panama, encouraging flyers to donate money to its efforts. In 2022, they added 2 projects in Uganda and Colombia to their portfolio.
KLM has also been a pioneer in the use of eco-friendly fuel options since 2009 and has even completed commercial flights with biofuel.
How to fly with KLM: KLM serves over 140 destinations around the world. The airline is part of SkyTeam, a global network of 19 airlines, including Delta Airlines. Because of this, you can earn and redeem Delta SkyMiles on KLM flights and earn towards Delta elite status.
Virgin Atlantic is one of the most sustainable airlines. The British commercial airline is on a mission to hit net zero by 2050 through innovation, transparency, and accountability.
Virgin's strong advocacy for the planet includes a decade-long partnership with LanzaTech, flying the world's first commercial flight operated on sustainable fuels in 2018, and supporting efforts to build the first Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) plant in the United Kingdom.
Today, the airline operates one of the youngest and cleanest twin-engine fleets in the skies, replacing its four-engine Boeing 747s and Airbus A340swith more fuel-efficient Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s. Virgin claims that this move has delivered a 20% reduction in fleet carbon emissions.
How to fly with Virgin Atlantic: Virgin Atlantic serves 200 destinations around the world, including 12 major cities in the US. The airline is currently 49% owned by Delta Air Lines, so you can redeem your Delta SkyMiles to fly with them.
Delta's goal is to replace 10 percent of its jet fuel refined from fossil fuel with sustainable aviation fuel by the end of 2030. The Atlanta-based airline has signed an agreement with hydrogen and biogenic-based fuel developer DG Fuels for up to 385 million unblended gallons of new low-emissions sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Like many sustainable airlines, Delta is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and appears on track to meet those targets, largely due to a significant investment in carbon offsets. It is also eliminating single-use plastic from its flights and investing $1 billion to advance clean air travel technologies.
How to fly with Delta: Delta serves 211 destinations in the United States, Canada, Cuba, and the Bahamas. The airline is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, so you can use Delta SkyMiles to fly with dozens of carriers around the world.
The best thing we can do for the planet is to travel less frequently, but if you have to fly, choose sustainable airlines that are actively taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. The airlines listed are making an effort and flying towards a green future.