Etihad Airways operated its most sustainable flight ever, using the efficiencies developed over the last two years in its sustainability program to reduce carbon emissions by 72 percent in absolute terms as compared to an equivalent flight in 2019.
The Etihad Greenliner Programme is a two-year partnership between Etihad and Boeing that uses Etihad’s Boeing 787 fleet as a test bed for sustainability improvements across the industry. The recent London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi (AUH) flight was part of this program, and included collaboration across the aviation ecosystem, coordination with airspace management for flight routing, new technology flight deck tools, sustainable aviation fuel, contrail reduction and airport handling processes, overall offering a sustainable in-flight product.
“These are noteworthy savings,” said Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer, Etihad Aviation Group. “When Etihad committed to achieve net zero, it was acknowledged that it was only possible if the airline worked collaboratively and positively with our industry partners. That is exactly what Etihad has done with the Sustainable Flight. Of equal importance, Etihad, Boeing and its partners — airports, ANSP, and suppliers — used the flight to learn where further improvements could be made.”
In an industry first, this was the first commercial flight to explore contrail-avoidance. Potential areas of ice super-saturated regions in the atmosphere where harmful contrails are likely to form, were identified and the flight route was adjusted to avoid these areas, thus not producing 64 tons of CO2e.
Sustainability was covered across three phases: planning, in-flight and post-flight. Aircraft, engines and route planning systems optimized take-off, en-route and landing flight paths and trajectories. Etihad also worked with guests to reduce luggage and rewarded those who traveled light. Catering was appropriately sourced and served on sustainable crockery with lightweight cutlery, part of a circular recycling process where they are returned to the manufacturer at their end, ground down to raw materials and remade. Guests were given environmentally friendly water bottles and limited-edition tote bags from upcycled aircraft materials, eliminating 80 percent of single-use plastics.
Upon arrival at AUH, Etihad’s new fleet of electric vehicles for ground logistics serviced the plane. When those vehicles were unable to be used, the airline purchased bio-diesel to fuel equipment.
“A fundamental part of the Greenliner programme is to explore the art of the possible. It is well known that SAFs are a credible alternative to current fossil fuels, however they are currently very expensive, and difficult to source and load onto the aircraft. EY20 was a dramatic example of those constraints wherein Etihad was unable to directly load the 38% SAF blend into the aircraft given inherent infrastructure constraints at Heathrow Airport. Instead, the SAF purchased by Etihad was loaded into the fuel hydrant system, which serves all airport users. While the EY20 did not in itself realise the full potential of the SAF, the potential benefit in CO2 reductions is real. Industry and governments must work together to address these issues through the funding of the research and development of SAFs and other parts of the planning and operating of flights. Etihad is looking forward to working on these issues,” Al Bulooki said.
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