“Things are not going back to the way they were […]. Sustainability and new equipment will shape the industry going forward,” was Regional Director Airline Market Analysis, Marketing & Business Development of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Tom Crabtree’s prediction at CargoFacts EMEA 2022. We are all in this together and for a shift towards greater sustainability, considerable investments need to be made before a level of demand is reached that brings supply to a more affordable and available level.
Boeing’s Global Sustainability Policy and Partnerships Regional Lead, Mohamed Al Ghailani echoed a similar sentiment: “Sustainability is a team sport!” That team sport idea was already
kicked off earlier this month by SkyTeam, with the official launch of its Sustainable Flight Challenge 2022.
Back to the roots
While not everything about the good old days was all that good, when it came to avoiding pollution, it was the 1934 Great Air Race that recently inspired a KLM group of employees going by the team-name of “Bold Move” to come up with the Sustainable Flight Challenge 2022. The 1934 race from London, England to Melbourne, Australia was held in celebration of Melbourne’s centenary year. One of the conditions for prize sponsorship by a major confectioner’s, was that the race be carried out as safely as possible. [Incidentally, the world’s oldest airline, KLM, then achieved second place with its KLM Douglas DC-2 PH-AJU Uiver (now one of only two flying DC-2s in the world), and even while carrying passengers.]
The event united aviation enthusiasts and was a highly impressive and fruitful trigger for innovation with a number of aircraft being specially designed for the race.
If we don’t do anything, pollution will further increase
Coming back to the Sustainable Flight Challenge 2022, the focus here (in addition to safety which is always first in any aviation endeavor), is on becoming as sustainable as possible – and again uniting the aviation world to achieve that goal together. GertJan Roelands, SVP Sales & Distribution at Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, underlined: “The great thing about this challenge is that we’re all demonstrating that flying can be more sustainable if we do our utmost. By uniting efforts across the sectors that support aviation, we can catalyze, accelerate, and transform the industry and meet climate goals.”
At the CargoFacts EMEA 2022, he also pointed out that if the industry does not do anything to improve its environmental impact, it will end up adding 20% more pollution than today in the next two decades.
Do everything greener
17 of the SkyTeam Alliance’s 19 affiliated airlines have entered the challenge, joining forces with their partners to operate the most sustainable flight possible. They have all pledged to share their experiences to build on improving the environmental impact caused by flight operations. The challenge creates a healthy, collaborative environment rather than an exclusive competition. While Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is a logical step towards lower carbon emissions, there are many other factors that can favorably influence more sustainable operations – measures such as 100% paperless handling, lightweight pallets, new electric transporters, for example. The SkyTeam members will be discussing the results and lessons learned from their challenge at the IATA AGM at the end of June.
AFKLM focused on showing leadership in sustainability
“With sustainability becoming an increasingly pressing issue, Air France and KLM have recognized that genuine change will only happen if the entire aviation ecosystem works together to transform our industry,” a recent company press release announcing the first flights of the challenge, states. Speaking on the subject at CargoFacts EMEA 2022, GertJan Roelands emphasized that Air France KLM has committed to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and since earlier this year, operates all flights out of Amsterdam and Paris with a SAF percentage – “a deliberate choice for sustainability” in face of the fact that SAF is more expensive. He also announced that AFKLM will move to more A350s to help achieve its sustainability goals. Both the A350 and the latest generation B787 boast lighter engines, better fuel efficiency, and lower carbon emissions.
We are the SAFiours!
It was an A350 operated by Air France that started the competition with a flight from Charles de Gaulle Airport in France to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Canada on 03MAY22. This was followed soon after by KLM’s Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner flight KL 675, from Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Edmonton, Canada. “This Amsterdam-Edmonton flight on May 7th now stands as the longest commercial flight with the highest amount of SAF ever flown: 39%*!” [*Cooking oil feedstock], Daniela Bumb, Director Canada at Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, posted on LinkedIn. She went on to thank everyone involved in the success of this sustainable flight: “Cargo Canada’s contribution was notable as well thanks to valuable support received from Alex Lowe and the whole team from the Edmonton International Airport! Furthermore, a special thank you to Kuehne+Nagel Canada, Alex Strohmeier along with Menzies Aviation Canada for raising the bar in greener service solutions for our customers!”
KLM’s partner, Edmonton International Airport aims to be the first North American airport to go beyond net-zero standards and actually remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere, and has implemented many environmental innovations and ESG initiatives, while the airline’s customers were encouraged to go paperless with eAWBs.
Why are we always the Whipping Boy?
There is much headway being made in aviation, yet this does still need acceleration. “Is the industry thinking enough about ESG issues?” Robert Greener, Head of Cargo at AerCap, questioned the audience at CargoFacts EMEA 2022. At the same time, he voiced his concern that “the airline industry is always the Whipping Boy. You don’t see the fashion industry [being outed] as the polluter of the world” with its 10% contribution and asserted that “IATA and TIACA are doing good work, but they should be more aggressive. There should be more pushback from them”. Hydrogen and Electric are the next technologies, but will take 10-15 years to come to fruition, so SAF is the bridge in the interim, he concluded. In the CargoFacts discussion, GertJan Roelands pointed out that while there were many SAF partners, much more innovation was needed to move to new forms of SAF since the current forms are not scalable. Yet, sufficient demand is required to shift to scalable forms. “It is a chicken and egg situation,” he summarized, “yet the purpose is to drive this now and that only works with collaboration.”
Collaboration between energy providers, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, forwarders, and other air cargo industry stakeholders: a team effort for a healthier future.
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