If one were to believe airline industry critics, airlines are a major cause of global warming. Despite the industry’s claim that it accounts for less than 2% of gases that can be blamed for pollution. Why let data spoil a good story?
Take a look at the chart and see just how the global airline industry is doing better all the time. Passenger traffic keeps growing – traffic doubles every 15 years. Yet the amount of fuel required to transport these people has barely grown. Between 1984 and 2008 airlines used 1.4% less fuel per passenger while traffic grew 180%.
We challenge any other global transport system to show a better picture. Commercial aviation is doing a great job reducing fuel burn, lowering noise and production of pollutants. On top of this impressive performance, the industry employs hundreds of thousands of people.
One can reasonably expect that shorter flights pollute more – these flights spend more time at lower altitudes (climbing and descending) and more time doing airport taxis, all of which generate higher fuel burn. The US DoT T-100 data for 2011 demonstrate that short flights are by far the majority.Over 81% of commercial flights in the US in 2011 were under 1,000 miles. We believe this pattern exists across the globe; perhaps not peaking at ~80%, but certainly well above 50%. Yet even with so much traffic focused on short flights the industry still cut fuel use substantially. It is a very impressive performance.