United, airberlin, Qantas and Air Canada pick up eco awards for sustainability and environmental endeavours
Tue 10 Sept 2013 – United Airlines, airberlin, Qantas, Air Canada, Airbus and WheelTug will this week receive awards at the annual Eco-Aviation conference organised by Air Transport World magazine. The main award, Gold Eco-Airline of the Year, will be presented to United Airlines in recognition of the carrier’s “realistic and practical approach to environmental action, with goals that are achievable, measurable and which take the entire industry forward.” Runner up, with the Silver award, is airberlin for becoming the first European network carrier to decrease fuel burn per 100 revenue passenger kilometres to 3.4 litres. For its decade-long eco-efforts, particularly in the field of sustainable biofuels, Qantas has been awarded Eco-Pioneer of the Year, while the Eco-Partnership of the Year goes to Air Canada and Airbus for their Perfect Flight initiative and other collaborative efforts. WheelTug will receive the Eco-Technology of the Year award for its nose gear electric drive system for aircraft taxi operations.
“It is an important fact that the world’s airlines and the air transportation industry is a benchmark setter for sustainability and environmental endeavours, as exemplified by this year’s ATW Eco-Aviation Award winners,” said ATW Editor-in-Chief Karen Walker. “It is also a truly global and collaborative effort, illustrated by our winners from all parts of the world and who are all involved in partnerships for the greater good of this industry and the environment.”
The judges said United Airlines had “clearly made it a priority to develop and pursue its own rigorous environment and efficiency goals while also taking a lead in significantly influencing sustainability in the general commercial airline environment.”
They also noted United’s proactive engagement in climate change and biofuels working group initiatives. “It was this combination of can-do spirit and determination to walk-the-walk on eco initiatives that caught the eye of the judges and made United a stand-out for its environmental and efficiency endeavours,” said ATW.
Commenting on the award, United Airlines chief Jeff Smisek said: “This is a great honour for United and I’m proud of the work that my co-workers do every day to be responsible stewards for the environment. Our initiatives are paying off as we reduce United’s environmental footprint and work together towards a sustainable future for our company and our industry.”
With 55 different projects in place, airberlin was praised by the judges for its continuous and innovative processes to reduce fuel consumption, resulting in a cut in CO2 emissions of more than 100,000 tonnes in 2012. They noted the airline’s selection in 2012 by climate protection organisation atmosfair as the best network carrier in Europe in terms of climate efficiency.
Announcing the Eco-Pioneer award, the ATW judges said Qantas had continuously led the field in industry-wide, collaborative eco efforts, including becoming a founding member of the Australian Initiative for Sustainable Fuels and working with stakeholders to develop an Australian ‘Flight Path to Sustainable Aviation’.
“Environmental sustainability is a guiding principle for Qantas as a business – it’s part of our responsibility to our customers, employees and the community,” said the airline’s Head of Environment, John Valastro. “It is also a financial imperative, given our annual fuel bill exceeds $4 billion and fuel accounts for 95% of our emissions. We aim to lead by example – through our fuel efficiency and biofuel initiatives – but also to play a role in the industry forums dedicated to reducing aviation’s impact on the environment. Only through industry-wide action can aviation genuinely make progress towards the goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020.
“This award will provide inspiration as we move forward with the next phase of our environmental strategy, including making the case for commercial production of aviation biofuel in Australia.”
The Eco-Partnership award recognises the collaboration of Air Canada and Airbus on the Aviation Environmental Roadmap to complete the first Perfect Flight in North America, a commercial flight of an Airbus A319 from Toronto to Mexico City that demonstrated CO2 reductions of more than 40% by combining best practices of aircraft technology, optimised operations, air traffic management and the use of sustainable alternative fuels.
“All of us at Air Canada are thrilled with this award recognising our joint ‘Perfect Flight’ with Airbus, a tangible example of our airline’s commitment and responsibility to reducing our footprint,” said Teresa Ehman, the carrier’s Director, Environmental Affairs. “We subsequently operated a second biofuel flight together, an Airbus A330, flying members of Canada’s Olympics team to the London Games. Since 1990, Air Canada has become 33% more fuel efficient and we are determined to continue increasing these gains through new technologies developed together with our industry partners, and the use of cutting-edge measures such as those deployed on these flights.”
Andrea Debbane, Airbus’ Head of Environmental Affairs, said: “We can reduce our environmental impact with technology but we have to work together as an industry to ensure the very highest environmental performance. Our ongoing partnership with Air Canada is a wonderful demonstration of how together we can do more and we are delighted that this has been recognised through this prestigious award.”
Eco-Technology award winner WheelTug has designed an electric drive system that uses high-performance electric motors installed in the nose gear wheels of an aircraft and powered by the APU to provide full mobility on the ground without the use of the aircraft’s jet engines or tugs for pushback and taxi operations, so reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. ATW judges said the company had “placed something on the market that is ahead of the competition and uses a business model that makes benefits of the system measurable.”
Commented WheelTug CEO Isaiah Cox: “This award speaks to the transformative leadership of our partner companies and airline customers. We have been working hard to bring our technology to the market so the aviation industry, including the flying public, can enjoy its multiple benefits as soon as possible.”
ATW editors will present the awards on September 12 at a dinner ceremony following the ATW Sixth Annual Eco-Aviation Conference being held in Washington DC.