Features

How sustainable is Easyjet?

25 May 2022 by Tom Otley
Easyjet's new uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles

Easyjet is aiming for net zero by 2050 and has committed to what it calls “35% by 35”, which is an interim target of a 35 per cent carbon emissions intensity improvement by 2035.

This is important because 78 per cent of its customers say they are concerned about the impact of climate change, and Easyjet views this with “the upmost importance, as we aim to pioneer sustainable travel.”

Since 2000, Easyjet has reduced its carbon emissions per passenger, per kilometre by one-third.

In 2021 financial year its carbon dioxide emissions per passenger kilometre was 81.08g, compared to 70.77g in the 2020 financial year, although this was negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic since its load factor (the average proportion of seats occupied on each flight), was reduced. This means that the carbon emissions from each flight are shared between a smaller number of passengers.

Easyjet’s carbon reduction pathway is aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).  This is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which guides companies on their decarbonisation journeys, in line with the Paris Agreement. Easyjet worked as part of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of dedicated experts from industry and NGOs who provided detailed input during the planning phase and on various drafts of the guidance and tool.

Interestingly, SBTi requires airlines to decarbonise within their own operation, thus not using out-of-sector carbon offsetting or other market-based mechanisms such as ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme).

As with most airlines, the journey to net zero is based on a number of different strategic pillars. For Easyjet they are “tackling our carbon emissions; stimulating technological innovation; and going beyond carbon.”

Here we look at some aspects of Easyjet’s journey to net zero using similar headings to those we have used for similar articles on its competitors.

Easyjet A321 neo

Fleet renewal

A modern fleet is fuel efficient and so emits less carbon per passenger than an airline with an older fleet.

Easyjet has one of the youngest narrow body jet fleets operating in Europe with an average age of 6.9 years in 2022. All new aircraft deliveries between FY’22 and FY’28 will be Airbus Neo aircraft. They are at least 15 per cent more fuel efficient than the aircraft they replace and provide a 50 per cent noise reduction.

Easyjet Sustainability strategy

Operational improvements and efficiencies and airspace modernisation

Operational improvements and efficiencies include adjusting standard operating procedures to help reduce fuel usage and therefore carbon emissions,. Examples are using single-engine taxiing on arrival and departure, using advanced weather information to improve navigation performance and engine washing to remove debris, which improves the air turbine performance.

The airline is also using new software and AI to identify further operational efficiencies. This is complemented by flight efficiency partnerships with key stakeholders such as Airbus, Collins Aerospace, NATS and Eurocontrol.

All airlines are lobbying for airspace modernisation and Easyjet says that “it is the most achievable source of reductions right now as more direct flight paths lead to shorter flying times.”

Projects such as the Single European Sky has a stated ambition to deliver 10 per cent carbon emissions savings from European aviation.

A Neste Gatwick SAF_sustainable_aviation_fuel_-_tunker_truck

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

Easyjet says it will “use SAF at scale… to achieve material lifecycle carbon emissions reductions in comparison to kerosene”. It conducted its first SAF flight at London Gatwick, using a 30 per cent blend in October 2021, and then a SAF blend was used on all flights operating from Gatwick to Glasgow throughout COP26.

During 2021 the airline also conducted an emission free turnaround trial at Bristol airport where it saw a 97 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions using electric powered ground equipment instead of diesel.

It has also made a number of announcements of partnerships around future technology.

These include Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and Wright Electric. There are several dedicated projects to accelerate the development of zero carbon emission aircraft technology.

Easyjet partners with GKN Aerospace on development of hydrogen fuel cell technology

Easyjet partners with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions on development of zero-emission aircraft

Sunset along the river in Kuching

Carbon offsetting

Easyjet’s commitment to SBTi requires airlines to decarbonise within their own operation, thus not using out-of-sector carbon offsetting or other market-based mechanisms such as ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme).

Easyjet to offset emissions from all flights

Nevertheless, it has been offsetting at least some of its emissions from flights since 2019, and also offers passengers the option of contributing more to this offsetting.

As part of its offsetting scheme Easyjet has been supporting the Pulau Borneo Project in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Over a decade, this has “successfully defended 64,500 hectares of carbon and biodiversity – rich lowland peat forest from conversion to palm oil plantations, which surround the project area and the adjacent Tanjung Puting National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.”

The airline says that “customer awareness of our carbon offsetting, based on customers who have flown within the past 12 months, was 51 per cent, compared to 45 per cent in the 2020 financial year, and the positive difference in overall satisfaction between customers who were aware and not aware was 6.3 percentage points. Easyjet holidays was also the first major holiday company to offset the carbon emissions directly associated with its holidays – the fuel from flights and transfers plus the energy from hotel stays.”

It has also eliminated more than 36 million single-use plastic items used on its flights and is continuing to ensure that any residual waste is recycled as much as possible, while always looking for more ways to take action.

In 2021 it also introduced new crew uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles. Forty-five bottles go into each uniform – with the potential to prevent 2.7 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfill or in oceans over the next five years. The garments are fashioned from a high-tech material that is made using renewable energy sources.

Easyjet introduces uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles

easyjet.com

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