Page 21

Getting There Greener

If You Must Stop, Fly Straight You can’t always avoid connecting flights, especially if you live in a smaller city with few nonstop options. But when your connecting flights take you in the opposite direction from your destination, your carbon footprint expands dramatically. The goal is to steer clear of multiple connections, and to make a single connection as direct as possible. If you do, you can cut your carbon emissions by a factor of two, three, or more. Take, for example, a flight from Charlottesville, VA, to New York City. USAir offers a 310-mile direct flight. Passengers unable to make that flight have several options with connecting flights. For example, United can connect you through Dulles Airport in Washington, DC—a very direct route—for a total of 340 miles. Delta offers a flight connecting through Atlanta, which has you traveling southbound to reach your northbound destination, for a total of 1,190 miles. Delta also offers a 1,285-mile trip detouring through Cincinnati and then Boston. As illustrated in Figure 6, out-of-the-way layovers can double or even triple your trip’s emissions.

More Seats = Less Carbon Choose airlines that offer only coach class. Different airlines configure their airplanes differently, so each plane has its own carbon footprint per seat. In the end, the

more seats an aircraft has, the less carbon-intensive the ride for everyone onboard. Some airlines remove first-class seats altogether and limit all seating to coach. This approach yields the lowest carbon emissions per passenger—carbon savings of about 10–15 percent, depending on how many seats the airline converts to coach. Travelers choosing airlines that offer only coach class encourage other airlines to do the same, sending a powerful signal to the market in support of cleaner air travel. Let’s look at a tale of two planes as an example. A Boeing 737-300 (733) operated by Southwest carries a total of 137 passengers in a single class: economy.19 However, Continental configures the same plane with 124 seats, a dozen of which are in first class. Other options might include flights on United or USAir, which configure their 737s with 120 to 128 seats in a range of classes (Figure 7). In this case, the Southwest flight would reduce average per-passenger carbon emissions by as much as 12 percent compared with those of the other airlines. Similarly, a Jet Blue Airbus 320 configured with 150 economy-class seats would reduce average perpassenger carbon emissions 8 percent compared with the same aircraft operated by United, which is configured with 12 first-class, 36 economy-plus, and 90 coach-class seats.

Figure 6. Carbon Emissions Depend on the Route You Take Flying from Charlottesville, VA, to New York City

CO2 Emissions (Pounds per One-Way Trip)





0 CharlottesvilleNew York City

CharlottesvilleWashington, DCNew York City

CharlottesvilleAtlantaNew York City

CharlottesvilleCincinnatiBostonNew York City

Note: This analysis is based on actual routes and the type of aircraft used on each, whether turboprop, regional jet, or narrow-body jet.


Getting There Greener - Travel Report  

While the idea of "green" vacations has attracted recent attention, most information focuses on what to do when you get to your destination,...

Getting There Greener - Travel Report  

While the idea of "green" vacations has attracted recent attention, most information focuses on what to do when you get to your destination,...