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How to travel better: Make greener choices with Skyscanner

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

Travel can make us better human beings by exposing us to new places, people, cultures and ideas. Although we have not been able to travel much this year, we’ve taken this time to reflect on ways to thank planet Earth for the enriching experiences it provides us. We are deeply aware, too, of the environmental impact of travel and we want to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy our world as we do today. So, this Earth Day, we want to make sure that travellers know how to make Greener Choices when booking their next adventure with Skyscanner.

Sustainable travel is not just an idea for us – it’s a commitment and part of Skyscanner’s mission. To make it easier for our fellow travellers to fly greener, we identify and use our Greener Choices label on flights with lower-than-average carbon emissions. We also invest in technologies and innovations that aim to make travel more sustainable in the future. For example, we predominantly purchase sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to offset our corporate travel footprint through a partnership with SkyNRG, a global leader in the SAF space. The company utilises sustainable, non-fossil resources to produce fuel. The SAF made from renewable biomass, such as cooking oil, is intended to reduce carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions by at least 80% compared to conventional jet fuel. Likewise, as founding members of Travalyst, a coalition that aims to build awareness through more transparent information about sustainable travel, we’re at the forefront of efforts to help future generations travel smarter and preserve the communities that they visit.

Protecting and exploring our planet need not be mutually exclusive, especially when there are ways to choose more sustainable flight options and lessen the environmental impact of your travels. We hope to have a positive impact on the planet by helping people make informed decisions that enable them to be better stewards of the Earth as they travel. Here is how you can use Skyscanner to make Greener Choices for your next trip.

What is a Greener Choice?

There is no way around it – air travel contributes to the release of greenhouse gases, such as CO₂, into the atmosphere. Although the aviation industry is on a path to reducing its carbon emissions, it’s also important that travellers do their part when possible, too.

That’s why Skyscanner developed the ‘Greener Choice’ label. This small, green-and-white leaf highlights the flights that have less-than-average CO₂ emissions for the particular route being searched. Next time you’re ready to book a flight, you’ll be prepared to make an informed decision and do your part to help preserve our beautiful planet.

The Greener Choices label lets travelers choose an eco-friendly flight

How Greener Choices are calculated

Our calculations are based on data from several industry sources, and we’ll only mark qualifying routes with a Greener Choice label if we have enough information to make the calculation.

We look at three main factors:

  1. Aircraft type: Newer models are typically more fuel-efficient because they use materials and technologies that allow them to optimise performance and reduce fuel consumption. Aircraft size and engine design matter greatly, too.
  2. Aircraft capacity: We assess the number of cabin seats each plane has to calculate the average emissions per person. Historically, an aircraft with a higher number of seats has shown lower per-passenger fuel emissions because there are more seats to divide the total emissions. However, with the advent of larger, more fuel-efficient engines, this is definitely not always the case anymore — the final number still depends on the flight’s overall efficiency.
  3. Route and distance: The most efficient flights per km/distance travelled are typically medium-haul flights due to the amount of fuel needed for take-off and landing (divided by the optimal distance for that particular flight) as well as the weight of the fuel itself. As the most fuel-intensive part of the trip is take-off and landing, short-haul flights have higher average emissions per km/distance travelled. When it comes to long-haul flights, the significant weight of the fuel can cause them to be less fuel-efficient. Medium-haul flights often strike a balance between the two. Also for these reasons, direct flights are often better than short to medium distances, but due to the extra fuel weight for long-haul flights, it can sometimes be more efficient for there to be a stop in-between.

Based on these considerations, if a flight has at least 4% less-than-average CO₂ for that route, it is marked as a ‘Greener Choice’ on Skyscanner.

Greener Choice label shows you which flights omit less CO2.

Why Greener Choices matter

Travel is one of life’s most fulfilling experiences, and it helps us grow as global citizens. We believe society benefits from exploring and being able to learn about new cultures and discover the world firsthand. These experiences increase our empathy and help us better understand how others live around the world. Communities also benefit from the cultural exchange, as well as the influx of tourism dollars into the local economy.

Still, we cannot ignore the impact of travel on the planet. Choosing to fly green will have a positive effect on the world, benefiting travellers who are out exploring today and, importantly, those who will explore local and distant destinations tomorrow. It’s no surprise that more and more people are looking for ways to offset their travel.

“More than 10 million travellers have selected the Greener Choice option for their chosen route,” says Sam Edwards, Skyscanner’s Sustainability Product Lead. “Skyscanner has made it our mission to lead the global transformation to modern and sustainable travel. We believe it is essential to take real action to lower carbon emissions and invest in sustainable technology for the future. We have a responsibility to educate travellers about the impact their travel choices have on the world around them in addition to offering travellers’ more options so they travel more consciously.”

Sustainable flying is just one way you can offset your next adventure. Did you know that when you book directly on Skyscanner, you can help fund carbon-reducing projects? Thanks to our partnership with CHOOOSE, an organisation dedicated to the reduction of carbon emissions in the fight against climate change, you can contribute to vital efforts such as sustainable wind farms in Costa Rica, hydropower in Honduras, clean water in Cambodia and efficient stoves in Myanmar.

How to find your Greener Choice

We’ve recently launched a filter that allows you to search only for Greener Choice flights – both on the web and in the app. When browsing flights on the Skyscanner website, simply check the ‘only show flights with lower CO₂ emissions’ box on the left side of the screen. In the Skyscanner app, tap the filter and scroll down to ‘Greener Choice’.

You may not always find flight results with less CO₂ than average when you search, but rest assured, we are working closely with airlines and industry partners to continually improve our Greener Choice calculation and the data that powers it.

Choose greener choice flights on the app

A few last words

With technology continuing to improve aircraft performance and biofuel on the horizon, air travel is changing! We are just at the start of the global transformation to modern and sustainable travel.

For our part, Skyscanner remains focused on building environmental awareness for a more sustainable future. We offer travellers a ‘Greener Choice’ label that identifies sustainable flight options and opportunities to offset their carbon footprint – and this is just the beginning. As we make plans to safely get back out there again, join our efforts to help preserve the earth and its countless treasures by choosing to fly better and greener.

Because travel restrictions can change rapidly, always check local government websites, such as the FCDO, for the latest information before booking or packing for your trip. You can also check out Skyscanner’s COVID-19 travel advice page for up-to-date details on restrictions and guidelines in the UK.

Where can I go?

Making plans to get back out there? Find out which borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

Find out what parts of the world are open to visitors on our interactive map

Frequently asked questions

What is the most fuel-efficient passenger airplane?

This can be calculated in a number of ways and results will vary by study. It is also worth noting that aircraft technology is constantly improving, so which airplane can be deemed ‘most fuel efficient’ will also constantly change. However, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), which analysed 20 transatlantic airlines in 2017, Norwegian Air, with its high seat count and use of the fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners, came out on top.

What is green aviation?

Green aviation refers to efforts that compensate for or reduce an aircraft’s carbon emission. That could mean using biofuel made from renewable sources such as plants, algae, cooking oil or even waste. A few examples of airlines already using biofuel blends are Qantas Airways, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Alaska Airlines. Green aviation also promotes the optimisation of fuel consumption. Boeing and Airbus, for example, are producing more and more fuel-efficient planes. Reducing noise pollution and investments in electric or hybrid aircraft models are other examples of green aviation.

What airline is the most environmentally friendly?

There’s no clear-cut answer. Different studies use different calculation methods, resulting in a variety of airlines coming out on top. That said, according to a report by the atmosfair Airline Index, a German non-profit that compares and ranks the carbon efficiency of major airlines, British charter airline TUI Airways is currently the most eco-friendly carrier. This can quickly change, though. The process of buying an aircraft is a long one, so some airlines may be awaiting a new fleet that is more fuel efficient than what’s in the air today. The actual planes a carrier uses are also only one aspect of sustainability. Airlines investing in strategic, long-term initiatives like SAF, carbon capture, electric aircrafts, etc. will ultimately be the ones making greater contributions to long-term sustainable aviation.

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