Revealed: the world’s greenest (and least green) airlines

A new study has revealed the world’s most and least polluting airlines.

The research conducted by Warwick Business School, which monitored airlines’ carbon emissions over a seven-year period, found that Finnair was the world’s greenest carrier, followed by TAP Portugal and Virgin Australia. At the opposite end of the scale, three major US carriers – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – were found to be the most polluting.

Dr Frederik Dahlmann of Warwick Business School, explained; “Finnair perform best due to the age and type of its planes, the routes it flies and the overall number of connections it offers. Plus it is probably among the most advanced when it comes to accounting for and managing its emissions over time.”

Finnair is the world's greenest airline, according to the study
Finnair is the world’s greenest airline, according to the study

One issue of concern highlighted by the report however, is the fact that most airlines’ CO2 emissions do not seem to be declining, despite the many steps being introduced by the industry to reduce its environmental footprint. In fact in many cases they are increasing.

“The data demonstrates that, for most airlines, emissions are either growing or stagnant; none are showing a significant reduction in CO2 emissions,” said Dr Dahlmann. “This is despite many airlines introducing modern and more efficient planes to their fleet. The increasing number of flights, which is set to double by 2030, means cutting emissions is a real problem.”

The report did acknowledge that releasing data about carbon emissions is “entirely voluntary”, hence why the study was only able to collect data for 20 major airlines.

“We need more airlines to publicly account for their emissions so passengers can take emissions into consideration when arranging their travel plans,” Dr Dahlmann said.

But he added that while the data is incomplete, the information obtained demonstrates that the airline industry faces a “huge challenge… to meet its CO2 targets”, and “shows how much needs to be done to meet the new targets set by the industry bodies.”

The aviation industry currently produces around 2% of the world’s human-induced CO2 emissions, and this figure is predicted to grow to about 3% in 2050 if no action is taken.

But the industry is taking action; under an IATA-led initiative, the world’s airlines are aiming to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

TOP FIVE                                 BOTTOM FIVE

1)    Finnair                                   16)    Air France-KLM
2)    TAP Portugal                        17)    Lufthansa
3)    Virgin Australia                   18)    United Airlines
4)    SAS                                         19)    Delta Air Lines
5)    easyJet*                                 20)    American Airlines*

* Limited data available

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