Air France has set out its aims for sustainability with an “Air France Horizon 2030” roadmap seeing it voluntarily offset emissions on all flights within mainland France from the beginning of next year (2020) through participation in environmental projects.
According to Air France, this represents an average of more than 450 flights per day and more than 57,000 customers.
The airline also plans to reduce its total CO2 emissions by 50 per cent per passenger kilometre compared to 2005 and fuel consumption per passenger kilometre to three litres by 2030.
The airline has already begun introducing selective waste sorting on board its flights to Paris, with items such as plastic, cartons (Tetra Pak packaging), aluminium cans and glass bottles due to be handled by Servair at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and recycled in France and Europe.
The commitment is in addition to the announcement of the elimination of single-use plastic items (cups, cutlery, stirrers) on board Air France aircraft from the end of this year (2019), which would amount to 1,3000 fewer tonnes of plastic per year.
In a wide-ranging interview, CEO Anne Rigail spoke with Business Traveller about Air France’s efforts on sustainability.
I first asked about the irony of capacity growth while trying to reduce emissions.
“It is true that you have a race between growth and reducing the emissions. What we saw was between 2011 and 2018 we have reduced our emissions in absolute figures for per passenger per kilometre. So if I take about the Air France group, we reduced it by 7 percent.”
“With our current growth, we are reducing domestic flights because of the competition from high speed train, so capacity will drop by 15 percent there. Our medium haul in terms of flight hours is pretty stable, and so the growth is mainly on long haul.”
“My view is the renewal of the fleet will help, and then of course we also have all the compensation in place, whether through the regulator or proactively like we are doing in domestic terms form next year, and so in that way we will reduce our carbon footprint in absolute terms.
“Nevertheless, we know that we won’t have electric aircraft like we have electric cars. We are involved with manufacturers on the research side and speak with Airbus and Boeing about what will be coming in 2040 and 2050. I think electric might work for short haul with small aircraft, perhaps 50 seats, and perhaps eventually this will transform the domestic market, but I don’t see that for the long haul.”
“I think bio fuel will be the transition here as we move towards either synthetic fuel or hydrogen. For bio fuels, we have to build the development capabilities for the sustainable bio fuels in Europe, and for us, as Air France, in France, of course. It was possible in Holland because of the alignment of the strategy of the airline, the government and industry to develop and build a plant of sustainable biofuels, and we are asking French industry and government to make it possible and affordable for the airlines. At the moment, as you know, bio fuels cost two or three times as much as conventional fuels, and they are not available anyway. To give some figures, if we were to use biofuel for only 0.5 percent of pour fuel needs, it would add 30 to 50 million Euros to our fuel bill.
“We must step up the transition to a more sustainable form of air transport and we are voluntarily making new commitments for today and 2030.”
Air France will also invest in research and innovation for sustainable alternatives in the aviation sector with the Solar Impulse Foundation.
Read “Air France Horizon 2030”