Aviation activity has many benefits to society such as allowing people to freely travel for business and pleasure. However, like other forms of transport, aircraft do cause environmental pollution.
This can be categorised as follows:
Broadly speaking the more aviation activity that occurs, the greater the quantity of the pollutant – so the larger the airline, the higher the environmental impact. However, looking only at absolute levels doesn't tell the whole story. Per passenger pollution levels can also be considered, as can improvements in
efficiency and performance. An airline that only used older, less environmentally friendly aircraft might create more noise and air pollution per flight than a larger airline.
Airlines publish information about their environmental impact in terms of:
Unfortunately, some techniques and procedures designed to reduce one environmental effect can lead to an increase in another environmental effect, for example by avoiding flying over more densely populated areas to reduce noise impacts can increase the journey distance which will increase the amount
of emissions it generates.
The government has issued guidance to the CAA setting out a policy where noise should be prioritised over climate change at lower levels of altitude and vice-versa at higher altitudes.
Read the government guidance.
Like with other forms of transports such as road and rail; many factors affect the environmental impact of taking a flight. Generally speaking the more fuel-efficient an aircraft is the better for the environment. However, many factors affect fuel efficiency, such as:
This is a difficult question to answer as there are many factors involved. However, there are some general principles you can use when choosing a flight such as selecting airlines with modern (i.e. more efficient) aircraft.
Rules and environmental standards vary from airport to airport. Airlines will have to meet the required standards to operate at that airport. If they don't, they may have to pay higher environmental landing charges, or the airport might restrict the number of flights they are allowed to make.
Some airlines are legally obliged to report their emissions. These are:
There are lots of ways that airlines can reduce the environmental impact of their operations.
These can include:
The industry body Sustainable Aviation highlights what airlines are doing to implement these measures in practice.
Return to Environmental stakeholders
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