Flying has a growing environmental impact with significant carbon emissions that are growing as the world flies more and further. In Sweden the Flygskam “Flight Shame” movement is increasing awareness of aviation’s impact on the environment and in the UK Plane Stupid is seeking an end to airport expansion. In this article we seek out the numbers to help inform our own travel choices.
Figure 1 The efficient Airbus A350 achieves a transatlantic fuel efficiency of 43 passenger kilometres per litre
Measuring Aviation Fuel Efficiency
The efficiency measure used by the International Council on Clean Transportation www.theicct.org uses the measure of passenger kilometres flown per litre of aviation fuel [pax-km/L]. Transport emissions generally are measured in grammes of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre.
How does Aviation compare with other forms of Transport?
Emissions from common forms of powered transport are compared in the table below:
The greenest option is take the coach.
How to minimise environmental impact of flying?
The following steps can be taken:
- Fly less often
- Don’t fly as far
- Don’t change planes
- Fly Economy
- Fly on planes that are full
- Fly on fuel efficient aircraft
- Fly with fuel efficient airlines
Which planes are most fuel efficient?
The most fuel efficient planes have the following characteristics:
- New model such as the Boeing 787 rather than old model such as the Boeing 767
- Two engines such as the Airbus A330 rather than four engines such as the Airbus A340
- Single deck aircraft such as the Boeing 777 rather than double-deck aircraft such as the Airbus A380
- High seat density with small or non-existent first class or business class cabins
Particularly good aircraft (from an emissions point of view) are the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787. Particularly poor aircraft are the Airbus A318 (Business Class Only) and the Boeing 747-400.
Which Airlines are most Fuel efficient?
The table below lists 2017 airline efficiencies for transatlantic flights as measured by the ICCT. The most efficient airline (Norwegian) is shown first and the least efficient (British Airways) is shown last.
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