In recent years, international communities have paid more attention to the environmental impact of travel, especially aviation. If we assess the environmental damage inflicted, the aviation industry might appear to be a convenient scapegoat: pre-crisis numbers confirm that aviation only accounts for ~2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions, and ~12% of CO2 emissions from all transport sources (compared to 74% from road transport).
However, the industry is one of the fastest growing sources of emissions: global aviation CO2 emissions are rising beyond any expectations (70% faster than what UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization has predicted), and under business as usual, commercial aviation’s CO2 footprint would triple by 2050.
Pressured by regulators, airlines are increasingly adopting social and environmental measures with two clear aims: to reduce and to offset emissions. While investing in newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft can reduce emissions by up to 25%, it is not enough to make climate-neutral flying a reality. Therefore, airlines like Lufthansa Group are investing massively in other initiatives such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (biofuel produced using raw materials and processes) and power-to-liquid technology (producing fuel using power from renewable sources, water and CO2).
On the other hand, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on a resolution (CORSIA) that aims to align CO2 emissions to 2020 levels by obliging airlines to offset the surge in their emissions after 2020. To abide by this resolution, airlines are required to monitor emissions and offset them by investing in environmental projects around the world that would reduce future emissions, from renewable energy research to planting trees.
Reconnecting with the customer
Legislation is not the only form of pressure the airlines are countering. Eco-conscious travellers feel guilty flying when unnecessary, so much so that the term flygskam (flight shame) was coined to embody their discomfort. The trend towards flight shaming shows the weight of civil response to activities causing environmental damage, as many opt to purchase rail tickets over flights.
In this context, airlines see an opportunity to engage with customers in a more rewarding way. This could be achieved through clear and consistent communication on the carbon offsetting activities airlines are undertaking. Eco-centric communications could enhance the airline’s image, and perhaps induce a sense of loyalty and support from the customer. Moreover, airlines should provide rich and flexible carbon offset products, which aim at collecting contributions from environmentally conscious customers. Here, both personalisation and equitable adjustable pricing (based on numerous criteria) are key to a successful offering.
Facing tremendous pressure from regulators and the international community, airlines have four clear options for both transforming their image and changing their environmental impact:
- Investment in more fuel-efficient aircraft, whilst avoiding aircraft modifications which could increase fuel consumption (e.g. satellite internet antennas which increase the drag)
- Increase use of biofuels, taking for example Lufthansa Group’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel initiative
- Provide better carbon offset products
- Improve communication and visibility of measures taken to reduce emissions
In future posts, we’ll be diving deeper into the four options airlines have for alleviating concerns and reducing environmental impact. Follow us on Linkedin for more updates to our Navigating Crises with Radical Customer Empathy blog series.