Top 20 most carbon-efficient airlines: Who's number 1?


Many of us are trying to cut our carbon footprint by walking and biking more, using public transportation more often, purchasing locally produced food, etc. But have you ever considered "greening" your airline travel?

The research group Brighter Planet recently completed a 10-year study on the carbon usage and efficiency of popular airlines, studying 4.5 million nonstop routes covering 130 million aircraft departures, 9.7 billion passenger departures and 12.8 trillion passenger miles of travel. They analyzed five different "key drivers of energy efficiency": aircraft models, seating density, load factor, freight share and flight distance.

The official report states:

"Commercial air travel consumes about 75 billion gallons of jet fuel each year, costing airlines over $140 billion and adding 3 trillion pounds of CO2e to the atmosphere.3 Flights represent 2%, 3%, and 3% of global, European, and US greenhouse gas emissions, respectively, and a far greater portion for many businesses.4 With air travel, fuel prices, global temperatures, and economic uncertainty all on the rise, issues surrounding passenger air travel efficiency have never been more important."

Brighter Planet found that an airline passenger wanting to cut their footprint (besides flying less) can do so just by being aware of a the different companies' carbon efficiency. As the report states, "analysis suggests there's no clear relationship between fuel efficiency and ticket price." So, booking a ticket to the same destination on an airline that uses smaller planes and packs more people in per flight, compared to some of the luxury airlines who use jumbo jets and sometimes fly only half-full (probably due to their high ticket prices), will surely produce less carbon emissions.

It's no surprise then that Ryanair of Ireland, Cathay Pacific, who covers much of Asia, and the UK's easy Jet (all discount airlines, no less) took the top three spots due to their overall carbon efficiency.

Ryanair, who ranked number one overall, uses just over one-third less fuel than the airline ranked last in the list, American Eagle. Ryanair also received props for efficiency in their load factor and seating density. Cathay ranked first on aircraft fuel economy, distance and freight share.

There were some more recognizable US companies who ranked fairly high, including Continental, United and JetBlue.

See the rest of the airlines listed in the study on Huffington Post Green's slideshow.

Information via Brighter Planet and Huffington Post Green; photo: