Etihad Airways completes its first ecoFlight under its ‘Greenliner program’

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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Etihad Airlines
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The national airline of the UAE, Etihad Airways, has completed its first ecoFlight for 2021, continuing its research and testing as part of the Etihad Greenliner program which evaluates environmental sustainability initiatives during scheduled services.

This is Etihad’s fourth ecoFlight, which is being flown on the airline’s iconic Greenliner aircraft, which is entirely offset for all operations through 2021 as part of the airline’s goal of becoming carbon neutral flying.

EY83, the first 2021 ecoFlight, departed Abu Dhabi for Rome on April 17, where it tested a range of flight and engine optimization initiatives, as well as onboard product upgrades to minimize weight and single-use plastics, with active trials being integrated into normal scheduled operations.

Onboard, the trial focused on three main pillars: sustainable goods, efforts to eliminate single-use plastics found on previous ecoFlights, and an overall weight reduction report. Etihad also tested initiatives to address the challenges raised by COVID-19, demonstrating the Etihad Greenliner Program’s mission to recognize challenges and encourage the industry to collaborate on practical solutions that ensure protection, environmental, and fiscal inclusion.

Mr. Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer Etihad Aviation Group pointed out that “Etihad made a significant and tangible commitment to sustainability and the future of aviation over a year ago, first when we launched the Greenliner program in partnership with Boeing, GE, and other aviation leaders, then with our commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and halving our net emission levels by 2035.”

Onboard service the Rome ecoFlight, 1,731 single-use plastic products were removed and replaced, resulting in a weight reduction of 108kg and a 60kg reduction in CO2 emissions.

This follows the airline’s efforts on the first ecoFlight to Brisbane in 2019, when 43 single-use plastic items were eliminated from onboard operations, resulting in an annual waste reduction of 17 tonnes, and again in 2020, when the airline operated an ecoFlight to Brussels, eliminating 2,639 single-use plastic items from the flight, resulting in a weight reduction of approximately 8.8kg.

Feasible initiatives tested on the most recent ecoFlight will be adopted for normal operations in the future, helping Etihad achieve its target of eliminating 80 percent of single-use plastics. The airline took on international waste legislation head-on with a recycling campaign to better handle cabin waste, based on circular theory efforts.

Positive Sustainability Partners

Boasting a range of sustainable suppliers, the flight focused on avoiding single-use products and seeking substitutes that are locally made, UAE sourced, and meet the requirements of being lightweight, non-energy intensive in cleaning, and non-impactful in the disposal.

The ecoFlight showcased Al Ain Water’s sustainable plant-based water bottles onboard. It also featured BambuuBrush’s highly sustainable up-cycled Bamboo Toothbrush and Abu Dhabi-based startup “The Concept’s” sustainable inflight meal trays made from used water bottles.

Operational Initiatives

Operational initiatives are being tested to assess and validate learnings from previous ecoFlights for flight path optimization, such as optimized climb and descent. As compared to a typical Boeing 787 flight on the same route, an ecoFlight decreased travel time by 40 minutes and CO2 emissions by three tonnes.

Potable Water Optimization

Adding useful testing data to operational efficiency projects like potable water optimization significantly aids these experiments, with this ecoFlight alone lowering CO2 emissions by 189 kg. The flight’s findings would aid in the creation of a more effective system for calculating potable water requirements for future operations, potentially saving up to 800 tonnes of fuel or 2,500 tonnes of CO2 annually across the fleet.

The ecoFlight comes on the heels of Etihad’s recent collaboration with American GE Aviation, which granted the airline a license to use the ground-breaking GE 360 foam wash jet engine cleaning system.

In 2021, the system will remove over 7,000 metric tonnes of CO2 from Etihad’s GE90 and GEnx fleets. This initiative has already saved 290kg of CO2 emissions on this flight, proving its value.

COVID-19 and Sustainability

With operations still severely impacted by COVID-19, Etihad’s dedication to sustainability remained on track, with the airline introducing a range of key sustainability measures in 2020, the announcement of net-zero emissions goals for 2035 and 2050.

This ecoFlight is the airline’s most recent effort towards sustainable aviation, and it is being flown under the umbrella of the Etihad Greenliner initiative, which is the airline’s guiding message for sustainability, uniting technologists and visionaries in a call to arms.

The Etihad Greenliner Programme is an open call to action for a joint initiative to maintain air travel’s comfort while preserving and mitigating environmental effects, as shown by their sustainability tagline: Etihad Airways flies all over the world from Abu Dhabi.

Related: Etihad to trial IATA Travel Pass for Abu Dhabi-US, Canada travelers till May