Airbus: On the path to sustainable air travel

air travel

Here, Open Access Government learns about the climate impact of aircrafts and how Airbus is on a committed journey towards sustainable aviation

Today, aviation has the power to connect people and cultures from all over the world, and with the COVID-19 pandemic putting commercial air travel largely to a halt over the past year, it is clearer than ever to see what a privilege this is. However, there are huge environmental costs to this, as air travel largely contributes to global CO2 emissions. If we want to continue reaping the many benefits of the aviation industry, this needs to change dramatically.
Airbus is committed to combatting the environmental impact of air travel and is sure that sustainable air travel is not only possible but achievable in our lifetime. Their robust approach to environmental protection and sustainability has the overall aim of transforming the sector to achieve the target of carbon-neutral growth. Stating that sustainability is at the heart of the Airbus corporate strategy, it is their purpose to pioneer sustainable aerospace for a safe and united world.
A recent example of this commitment is the news that a team of leading aerospace specialists have now launched the world’s first in-flight emissions study using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a commercial passenger aircraft. Airbus, German research centre DLR, Rolls-Royce and SAF producer Neste have teamed up to start the pioneering ‘Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels’ (ECLIF3) project which looks into the effects of 100% SAF on aircraft emissions and performance. Findings from this study will support the efforts currently underway at Airbus to ensure the aviation sector is ready for the large-scale use of SAF as part of the wider initiative to decarbonise the industry.
“SAF is a vital part of Airbus’ ambition to decarbonise the aviation industry, and we are working closely with a number of partners to ensure a sustainable future for air travel,” stated Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager at Airbus.
He further stated that “aircraft can currently only operate using a maximum 50% blend of SAF and fossil kerosene; this exciting collaboration will not only provide insight into how gas-turbine engines function using 100% SAF with a view to certification but identify the potential emissions reductions and environmental benefits of using such fuels in flight on a commercial aircraft too.”
The overarching approach to sustainability at Airbus consists of four pillars.


Airbus has the ambition to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035 to ensure future generations can enjoy flying as much as those who have gone before them.

It is stated on their website that “our work in electric flight has laid the groundwork for our future zero-emission commercial aircraft known as ZEROe. We are now exploring a variety of hybrid-electric and hydrogen technology options. Our approach is not only ambitious, but rather, a seismic shift for our industry.”

This announcement for the delivery of hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035 goes hand in hand with the UK government’s announcements of a net-zero target by 2050. This is a great challenge but a great opportunity and will push the aviation sector towards completely carbon-free flying.

Product responsibility

This means finding a balance between social, economic and environmental commitments. Airbus’ approach to product responsibility begins at the design stage and continues across the entire lifecycle of a product, right up until end-of-life recycling.

Fostering a sustainable supply chain

About 8,000 direct and 18,000 indirect suppliers from more than 100 countries supply parts, components, systems and services to Airbus. This vast, global supplier network makes major contributions to value creation, economic prosperity and sustainable development in the communities in which they operate. Airbus suppliers thus have a significant impact on their sustainability performance. To mitigate risk within the extensive supply chain, Airbus requires its suppliers to meet the same environmental and social responsibility standards that they set for themselves, which are clearly outlined in the Airbus Supplier Code of Conduct.

Zero-emission technology in future aircraft

The aviation industry has committed to carbon-neutral growth starting from 2020. But as we know, this ambitious target cannot be achieved using existing aircraft technologies. Alternative propulsion systems and energy sources, and innovative solutions to existing challenges, are vital to significantly reducing CO2 emissions in future aircrafts. Future projects include:

  • ZEROe.
  • BLADE.
  • Bluecopter.
  • CityAirbus.
  • E-Fan X.
  • Racer.

Airbus has stated: “Today, aircraft emit 80% fewer CO2 emissions per seat kilometre than they did 50 years ago. They are also 75% quieter. We invest in R&D to take aircraft performance in fuel efficiency and noise reduction to the next level.”


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