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Air travel growth suggests ‘sustainable’ and ‘development’ are not compatible

Sustainable Practices in Transport Industry


Air travel is not the only threat to life on earth, but it is a useful barometer of runaway economic growth and development that, if allowed to continue unmitigated, will irreparably harm the planet

Perspectives and insights

  • Airbus has predicted that over the next 20 years the number of commercial aircraft in operation around the world would double.
  • Since 1990, technological advances have indeed cut aircraft fuel consumption per passenger kilometer by half. But at the same time the number of passenger flights quadrupled, to 4.2 billion a year, nullifying any gains in efficiency. By 2037 there will be more than 8 billion flights a year.
  • A study revealed that between 2013 and 2018 the volume of carbon dioxide emitted by airlines increased 32%. The growth was “largely coming from people who haven’t accessed air travel in the past [and] in the notion of what we’re going to do to protect our planet there has to be a notion of equity.

Xoologue - a discussion between Xoo and Moo

Moo: I recently read that a round trip between Singapore & New York by air consumes as much energy per traveller that’s equal to using a 1 ton AC as for 24 hours a day for one full year. Sounds like an exaggerated estimate.

Xoo: Not at all, Moo. If you go by energy equivalence, what you have mentioned is a fairly accurate estimate.

Moo: Well then, It feels almost criminal to fly, Xoo.

Xoo: Yet there are close to 40 million flights each year. Assuming each flight carries an average 100 people, 4 billion person trips are made by air each year.

Moo: Surely a good proportion of flying can be eliminated?

Xoo: Without a doubt, Moo. With digital technologies and Internet providing such a real and almost business meeting experience, I foresee significant reduction in business air travel.

Moo: But what about people who love to fly? How can we get them to reduce the amount of air travel?

Xoo: In many experience, Moo, there’s one lever that has almost always worked to shape behaviour.

Moo: And that is?

Xoo: Price.