Eco-Consciousness - Airline Travel Industry Research

Goals

To have a robust understanding on the degree of influence surrounding eco-consciousness in the airline travel industry in the United States. Specifically, to have data on whether the rise of eco-consciousness is affecting whether Americans are curbing their air travel, and are choosing different types of travel instead. Additionally, to know whether it is affecting their choice in airlines. Finally, to look at trends of eco-consciousness and how it is affecting the airline industry, what consumers think about eco-consciousness and its relation to airline travel, and how airlines are addressing it.

Early Findings

  • A new hashtag originating from Sweden has encapsulated a true 21st century angst: #flygskam, or flying shame. That's the troubling awareness that you're consuming more than your fair share of the carbon budget.
  • Concerns over the environmental impact of flying sparked the “flight shame” movement, wherein eco-conscious travelers shun flights as much as possible to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • A campaign called Flight-free 2019 (now Flight-free 2020), was started in Sweden to encourage people to pledge not to fly. By the end of 2018, 15,000 Swedes had signed; by the end of this year, it will likely be 100,000. It has changed the conversation around flying in the country: passenger numbers dropped at Swedish airports in 2018, while a record number of people in the country took the train.
  • There is now a British arm of the campaign, run by the writer Anna Hughes, who last took a flight eight years ago. More than 1,000 people have pledged to have a flight-free year.
  • United Airlines, has positioned itself as a leader among all global carriers in environmental sustainability. It is the first airline to demonstrate all the following key actions on a single commercial flight: "utilization of sustainable aviation biofuel; zero cabin waste efforts; carbon offsetting; and operational efficiencies."
  • United's most important environmental achievements include becoming the first airline globally to use sustainable aviation biofuel on a continuous basis, marking a significant milestone in the industry by moving beyond test programs and demonstrations to the everyday use of low-carbon fuel in ongoing operations.
  • United has invested more than $30 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy, which is a California-based sustainable aviation fuels producer. "It is the largest investment by any airline globally in sustainable fuels. United's agreement to purchase nearly 1 billion gallons from Fulcrum BioEnergy is the largest off take agreement for biofuel in the airline industry."
  • In the past year, airlines have been struggling to find effective ways to deal with the PR consequences of flight shame, especially after climate activist wunderkind Greta Thunberg weighed in, urging her followers to reconsider their flying habits.
  • The no-fly movement, is a small but growing community of people. They have made the conscious decision to severely cut back on the number of flights they take, or they have simply given up on air travel altogether. Many of these people say they feel flying is about to receive the same attention as shunning plastic or eating less meat because of its 2% contribution to global carbon emissions, predicted to grow to as much as 16% by 2050.
  • The Flying Less campaign, targeted at academia, has been significant among environmental scientists for years, having been running since 2015.
  • Airplane emissions have increased by 4.3% each year since 1999 and are expected to make up 25% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Electric planes, like e-Genius, are already being tested around the world. Last summer, that two-seater plane climbed to more than 20,000 feet in the French Alps and went faster than 140 miles per hour.
  • There are many experts that forecast electric planes could be ubiquitous within 20 years. The catch is that they will likely be small planes that can only carry about 100 passengers and will only likely fly between regional airports. However, the potential in this vertical is huge: the electric aircraft industry is projected to reach more than $22 billion by 2035.
  • Regulation will factor into this equation. Approving electric planes for passenger travel has not yet happened. In order for zero-emission aircraft to be commonplace, the FAA needs to update its guidelines to include more than just traditional fuel-powered planes.
  • In addition to this public search, we scanned our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources and were unable to find any specific research reports that address the stated goals.

Summary Of Our Early Findings Relevant To The Goals

  • Our first hour was spent scanning to ensure that there was publicly available data to answer all the questions and we ascertained that there was. In addition, we were able to provide several insights surrounding the topics. We did note that there was much more global data, especially for Europe, than for the United States, and we will be offering some options in the proposed nest steps that address that.
  • We were not able to address all areas given the time constraints.
  • Please select one or more of the options provided in the proposed scoping section below.

Research proposal:

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