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Copa Airlines claims Latin American first as it launches a voluntary carbon offset service to passengers

Copa Airlines claims Latin American first as it launches a voluntary carbon offset service to passengers | Copa Airlines, Sustainable Travel International, Pedro Heilbron, NatureAir, Alex Khajavi

NatureAir went carbon neutral in 2004
Thu 22 Oct 2008 – Panama-based Copa Airlines has added a carbon calculator to its website, allowing passengers to voluntarily offset the carbon emissions of their chosen flights. The offset programme was developed in association with Sustainable Travel International and contributions will be invested in alternative energy projects and reforestation. Still in Central America, Costa Rica’s NatureAir, which claims to be the world’s first certified carbon neutral airline, has launched a sustainable travel blog.
 
Copa’s carbon offset programme – the first of its kind in Latin America, it claims – is part of an environmental commitment by the airline which includes a fleet renewal to more fuel efficient aircraft and the streamlining of operations to reduce overall fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The airline is also implementing an Environmental Adaptation and Management programme that it says encompasses the measurement, reduction and offsetting of emissions, in addition to promoting cleaner production, consumption of renewable resources and a corporate culture of environmental responsibility (see separate story).
 
“Our efforts to reduce our own environmental impact are equally as important as those of our passengers,” said Copa’s CEO, Pedro Heilbron. “We are pleased to offer this dependable and respected option for offsetting the carbon footprint of air travel and to participate in this joint effort to benefit our planet. Counteracting the effects of climate change is an enormous challenge, which will be successful only if we undertake the task together.”
 
Non-profit organization Sustainable Travel International says it was the first to introduce carbon offsetting and custom carbon calculators into the North American travel and tourism industry.
 
Since its inception in 2000, NatureAir has grown from flying 18,000 passengers annually to more than 150,000 in 2007. Having started with one plane and 17 staff, it now employs 150 and has a fleet of eight aircraft, mostly Twin Otters, based at San Jose’s Tobias Bolanos Airport. The company offsets more than 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually and uses carbon credits to help conserve Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, one of the region’s most biologically diverse rainforests.
 
“It becomes a duty and necessity for us to preserve and protect the environment that we are living in,” said Alex Khajavi, founder and CEO of NatureAir. “We are the users of resources and this should motivate us to protect and to give back to the environment.”
 
The company went carbon neutral in 2004 and rather than asking passengers to make a voluntary contribution to offset their carbon emissions, it instead decided to put up ticket prices to cover the purchase of the carbon credits. Although fares are 20% higher than the competition, NatureAir says it has increased its annual revenues five-fold since implementing the programme, and has become one of Latin America’s fastest growing airlines.
 
NatureAir aims to reduce fuel consumption through continuous improvements to flight plans, and claims to have improved the fuel efficiency per hour of flight of its aircraft by 4% this year compared to last year.
 
The airline’s newly-launched blog aims to help educate readers on sustainable travel and keep people informed and involved in Costa Rica as an ecotourist destination. It hopes to provide an educational outlet for people to share and exchange information on ecotourism and climate change. As a social networking outlet, travellers, pilots and professionals in all fields are encouraged to share their stories and thoughts. NatureAir’s flight captain will also be sharing his perspective on what it means to be a pilot within a sustainable airline.
 
 
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