Discover how India is taking sustainable steps to mitigate the negative impacts of the aviation sector and its future plans.
Although the aviation industry has a long way to go to meet its sustainability goals, there are noticeable global efforts, including in India. Many airlines, airports, and policymakers in the country are gradually acknowledging the necessity of transitioning to more environmentally friendly business practices.
Akasa Air is Taking the Lead
Akasa Air, despite being a relatively new airline, appears to be leading the way in sustainable operations within the Indian aviation industry. The airline’s fleet comprises entirely of Boeing’s latest generation fuel-efficient 737 planes — the MAX series, which are powered by CFM International LEAP-1B engines and equipped with advanced technology winglets.
These planes offer exceptional economics, resulting in a 20% reduction in fuel use and emissions compared to their predecessors, while also generating 50% less noise and offering 20% lower airframe maintenance costs. Additionally, Akasa Air has taken steps towards sustainability in other areas such as their crew uniform, which is created from recycled polyester made from PET bottle plastic found in marine waste, and their packaging of perishable meals, which is sourced from sustainably grown crops.
Air India’s Sustainable Initiatives
Air India has taken steps towards reducing single-use plastic on its flights by 80% across its global network. To achieve this goal, the airline has implemented several initiatives:
Removing 500ml plastic water bottles from all economy class seat pockets on widebody aircraft operating international flights.
Reducing the bulk uplift of 200ml water bottles on both domestic and international flights.
Replacing plastic straws with paper straws. Additionally, Air India has introduced compostable waste bags and a water pour service using 1-liter water bottles during the flight.
Recently, the airline also announced the use of semi-automatic robotic equipment, TaxiBot, to taxi its aircraft at Delhi and Bengaluru airports, which could result in a fuel consumption reduction of 15,000 tonnes over three years.
Airports are taking Green Initiatives
Not only airlines but also some Indian airports have made notable progress toward sustainability. Last year, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), the operator of Delhi airport, announced its plan to replace its fuel-consuming airside vehicles with electric vehicles in phases, reducing close to 1,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Delhi Airport has been committed to its environmental goals for a while now, becoming the first in India to eliminate single-use plastics in 2020. In 2021, it received recognition for being the world’s first airport to complete 1,000 TaxiBot movements, and it also operates solely on hydro and solar power.
Cochin International Airport, located in the southern state of Kerala, became the world’s first airport to fulfill all its energy requirements through solar energy in 2015. In 2022, Mumbai Airport also transitioned to entirely green sources for its energy needs.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
Although India has some ground to cover when it comes to using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) compared to other aviation markets, there have been some advancements in this regard. There have been talks that relevant authorities are considering mandating the blending of 1% SAF with regular fuel.
Last year, three airlines under the Tata Group, namely Air India, AirAsia India, and Vistara, signed an MoU with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research — Indian Institute of Petroleum to partner and collaborate on the research, development, and implementation of SAF.
The Bottom Line
India is taking remarkable steps for sustainability in the aviation sector. Every year greenhouse gas emissions increase at a higher rate. Mitigation of the dangerous effects of climate change is not possible without collective efforts across all sectors. However, the aviation sector has a significant role in reducing CO2 emissions. The Indian civil aviation minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia, has been advocating for sustainable practices in Indian aviation. With around 220 airports expected to be established in the coming years, the country aims to make over 90 of them carbon-neutral by 2024.