The Major Ways Airlines Are Getting Greener

04.22.19 3 months ago


It’s tricky to write about travel in an environmentally responsible way. Overtourism and emissions from air travel are hurting the planet. As travel writers, we want to combat that, encourage others to do the same, and live big lives, exploring the great wide world. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk.

John DiScala, who runs the popular travel website Johnny Jet, wrestles with this same problem. It’s been his business to encourage people to buy flights. But he doesn’t believe that your environmental impact is a straight numbers game. Making the earth a better place has a lot of moving parts.

“As corny as it sounds,” he says, “I truly believe the more people that travel, especially internationally, the less prejudice there will be in the world.”

Those egalitarian ambitions demand the tradeoff of people getting on planes. Meaning that your expanded horizons are, in the end, bad for the earth. This becomes complicated in a hurry — creating a “do I stay or do I go?” moral quandary.

The dilemma about whether or not to travel (and how often) is eased by airlines working to be better. In February, Qantas announced a huge initiative to cut their waste-to-landfills by 75 percent before the end of 2021. They aren’t the only major carrier pledging to do better. Here are some of our favorite recent ecoloy-minded airline initiatives, with advice for how you can get involved or take the message to heart.

Airlines are phasing out boarding passes.

While most airlines give an option of pulling up your boarding pass on your phone, the next step is to not print them at all. Along with their waste initiatives, Qantas is also phasing out boarding passes and paper instruction manuals — instead opting for digital. Digital boarding is not only more environmentally friendly, but it also speeds up the process. German airline Lufthansa recently tested out biometric boarding at LAX, using facial recognition. The airline reported boarding 350 passengers in under 20 minutes.

What you can do: Get your boarding pass on your phone rather than printing it out at home or the airport. It’s easier (and better for the environment).

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