Etihad expands strategic sustainability programme uniting industry leaders in the most comprehensive, cross-organisational aviation sustainability initiative ever undertaken

15 November 2021, 04:00 PM
Etihad expands strategic sustainability programme uniting industry leaders in the most comprehensive, cross-organisational aviation sustainability initiative ever undertaken

Abu Dhabi, UAE – Etihad Airways has signed multiple partnership and collaboration agreements with the aviation industry’s top manufactures, suppliers and stakeholders at the 2021 Dubai Airshow, bringing aviation’s leading organisations together under its strategic sustainability programme to drive decarbonisation creating the industry’s most comprehensive multi-organisational partnership to reduce Co2 emissions globally.


The airline’s sustainability programme, which to date has been focused on the airline’s fleet of GEnX powered Boeing 787’s under the Greenliner Programme, will now be complimented by a similar programme focussed on maximising the opportunities presented by the inclusion of the Rolls Royce XWB powered Airbus A350 fleet. The first of Etihad’s A350’s, launched today at the Dubai Airshow as the “Sustainability50”, carries a unique “UAE50” livery in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the federation of the UAE and the airline’s commitment to the 2050 target of net-zero carbon emissions.


Etihad’s work with partners including Boeing, GE, Airbus and Rolls Royce supports the organisation’s strategic objectives to achieve a 20% reduction in emissions intensity in its passenger fleet by 2025, cut 2019 net emissions by 50% by 2035, and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Speaking at Dubai Airshow, Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, acknowledged the uniting of these industry players for decarbonation is a unique and important step forward for the industry: “There's no silver bullet for this one, no obvious single act that will provide a solution. It's going to require the combination and the sum of many different organisations and governments working together for small, incremental improvements.


“Governments and regulators must help the industry to drive innovation for long-term solutions to decarbonising aviation. Support is needed for development of affordable and sufficient supply of sustainable fuels. Optimising flight paths on the busiest routes in the world would prevent untold amounts of Co2 from being pumped into the atmosphere. There is a big opportunity here that doesn’t require any new technology to implement and could be implemented today if there was a will.


Despite the impact of Covid19 on global aviation, Etihad’s Greenliner programme implemented key sustainability initiatives in 2020 and 2021 to test and develop long term decarbonisation solutions for commercial application. Thanks to the success of the program over the past 2 years, and the airline’s continued focus on sustainability, Etihad has revised its targets for CO2 reduction and is committed to remaining at 50% of 2019 emissions as flight operations grow in the post-pandemic world, based on its fleet of high-performance, sustainable aircraft. The Dubai Airshow in 2021 saw the renewal of the Greenliner Program.


Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “Partnership is critically important to decarbonize our industry, and we are honored to work side-by-side with Etihad to advance sustainable aviation. Our flight test programs and other joint efforts over the past two years have clearly demonstrated the value of industry collaboration.”


Based on Etihad’s fleet of 787s, the renewal today of the Etihad, Boeing and GE agreement under the Greenliner Programme will also see a renewed focus on propulsion, exploring new opportunities to test new technologies from GE Aviation and GE Digital that lower emissions.


John Slattery, President and Chief Executive Officer of GE Aviation, said: “Decarbonization is a challenge that the entire aviation industry faces. The only way that we can address it is with agreements like this MOU with Etihad. Through this agreement, GE will be able to test innovative technologies that can help reduce emissions as well as enhance the time on wing of our GEnx engine, which may benefit Etihad and all our airline customers.”


Mr Douglas went on to say: “As we continue our march towards sustainable aviation, we know that we cannot do this alone. Etihad’s Greenliner Programme was designed as a vehicle for collaboration, successfully bringing together over 50 partners in the past two years. As we now expand that Programme with the introduction of the A350 under the Sustainability50 programme, we once again make a call to arms, inviting more stakeholders across the aviation industry to help us on this path.”


Etihad’s partnership with Airbus establishes a formal framework to collaborate for sustainability across a number of core areas on Etihad’s A350 fleet, in line with the organisations’ respective sustainability programmes to improve aviation’s environmental performance. Key areas for collaboration include the promotion and commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel, waste and weight management, and the development of data driven analysis.


Mikail Houari, President Airbus Africa Middle East, said: “Airbus is leading the industry in the collective decarbonisation efforts needed for sustainability. Airbus’ clean sheet design A350 is the latest generation widebody offering real benefits to operators such as Etihad Airways. Less fuel consumption and lower operating costs mean business sustainability as well as improved environmental performance. We are looking forward to building on our long-standing relationship with Etihad Airways.”


The introduction of the Rolls-Royce XWB engine powering the A350 fleet is yet another credential in Etihad’s drive for sustainable operations, given the renowned fuel efficiency of this modern engine. Etihad’s agreement with Rolls-Royce is built around maximising the enormous potential of this engine, and beyond, targeting the application of electrification technologies and hybrid systems, together with the use of electric motors for commuter aircraft and the fast-emerging urban air mobility (UAMs) sector.


Chris Cholerton, President of Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace, said: “Our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 can only be achieved by working collaboratively with our valued customers and stakeholders. Our long-standing relationship with Etihad Airways provides an excellent foundation to build innovative solutions that can meet the needs of new trends in aviation as we embark on the same journey towards an increasingly sustainable industry.”

The pursuit of sustainable aviation goes beyond the manufacturers of aircraft and engines, and the Dubai Airshow launch of the airline’s expanded Sustainability Programme, included agreements with many new partners, both within and outside the aviation industry.


At the Dubai Airshow in 2021 Etihad signed sustainability-focused agreements with:


·       Etihad and Lufthansa Technik AG have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding a comprehensive partnership on the exploration of digital solutions that is set to further optimize the airline’s technical fleet and operations management. The field of cooperation will encompass several products from Lufthansa Technik’s industry-leading AVIATAR digital operations suite. Focusing on digital and sustainable tech-ops, it covers the use of Fuel Analytics, Condition Monitoring and automated Line Maintenance Planning in the beginning. To further boost its fuel efficiency and hence reach its sustainability goals, Etihad will be one of the first airlines to take advantage of AVIATAR’s innovative Fuel Analytics app.

·       SATAVIA and Etihad Airways signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to form a partnership focussing on reducing the airline’s non-CO2 footprint via advanced flight planning optimisation. The collaboration will help to eliminate the creation of aircraft-generated clouds that account for up to 60% of aviation’s total climate impact.  In a world-first trial targeting contrail formation, the two companies collaborated on the airline’s EY20 Sustainable flight on the 23rd October 2021. Based on analysis of the original flight plan, EY20 contrail prevention activity prevented a net ~64 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) forcing with a marginal fuel burn penalty of 0.1 tonnes, generating less than 500 kgs additional CO2 emissions. SATAVIA’s DECISIONX capability enables airlines to prevent condensation trails (contrails), which cause a net climate warming effect almost double that of direct engine emissions. By exploring the potential for integrating SATAVIA’s DECISIONX flight plan contrail optimisation into the airline’s flight planning systems, Etihad hopes to implement navigational contrail prevention in day-to-day flight operations.

·       Etihad and Tadweer (Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center) signed a Joint Project Development Agreement (JOP) on waste to fuel initiatives, as part of the nation’s targets to divert 75% of waste from landfills by 2025 and the sectors compliance with CORSIA, toward decarbonization through utilization of Sustainable Aviation Fuels. The project seeks to explore the processing of commercial, industrial, and municipal solid waste to fuel, fulfilling the airline’s stance on the development, production, and integration of a valuable biofuel supply chain in the region. This latest agreement with Tadweer strengthens the airline’s position on the significance of sustainable aviation fuels and provides the opportunity to cover 20% of Etihad’s jet fuel requirements by 2026. Etihad has a long history of trialling sustainable aviation fuel on multiple test bed and commercial flights since the airline operated its first bio-fuel flight in 2012. In 2020 Etihad partnered with Boeing in the ecoDemonstrator Programme, using the highest permissible volume SAF on all test flights with over 60 tonnes of emissions avoided on the delivery flight alone. Participation in the program supported our fuel partners in producing the largest volume of 50/50 blend biofuel ever produced commercially. The agreement further enforces the challenges currently faced on the satisfactory integration of SAF as a realistic and viable alternative to jetfuel, as there are still insufficient quantities available, and limited supply points worldwide. The airline continues to pursue the research and development of fossil-fuel alternatives as part of its extensive decarbonization strategy, advocating for review of current global energy policy settings as these fuels are approximately four times more expensive than regular jet fuel. With this partnership, Etihad hopes to diligently improve availability and accelerate the integration of sustainable aviation fuel across the industry.

·       Etihad Airways and The Storey Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Following the operation of the Etihad Sustainable Flight, the airline adopted a mangrove for each passenger on board the flight from Abu Dhabi’s Jubail Mangrove Park to support the development of mangrove conversation projects in the nation. To explore and maximise all efforts toward decarbonization, the initiative fulfils the opportunities presented in seeking solutions for the now, while building a substantial sequestration path for the future. With carbon offset projects often seen as a short-term solution to decarbonization, the airline continues to value robust and significant opportunities to support its sustainability strategy without relying on offsets. Collaboration with Jubail Mangrove Park, The Storey Group and Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi is especially significant, in ensuring the preservation and maintenance of natural habitats, ensuring the mangroves not only reduce pollution from water and the atmosphere, but their potential to avoid release of CO2 into the atmosphere with mangroves currently holding up to 6.4 billion tonnes of CO2 globally. Etihad’s previous achievements as founding partner of the SBRC (Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium) saw the development of the SEAS project, which produced the first locally sourced and produced biofuel from salt-resistant plants called Salicornia. With the UAE to set to host COP28 in 2023, the national airline’s efforts to explore all possible opportunities for carbon reduction further proves the nations commitment to sustainability, and the Etihad Mangroves hope to continue this mission.


These initiatives add to the diligent number of efforts the airline has previously made toward sustainable aviation, maintaining a singular vision of assembling valuable relationships with partners across the entire aviation supply chain and beyond. With the recent victory of the UAE in the bid to host COP28 in 2023, the national airline is further emboldened to continue its altruistic approach to sustainability in building a non-competitive network of expertise and innovation, providing access to technology development and maturation projects, comprehensive investment frameworks and leveraging every opportunity for proof-of-concept demonstration. The multitude of partnerships which have made up the Etihad Greenliner Programme to date demonstrate the airline’s agile and comprehensive approach to sustainability, proven by the inclusion of Airbus A350 and Rolls Royce and subsequent expansion to Sustainability50; an evolution certain to further signify the power of the Etihad Greenliner call to arms, and Etihad Airways commitment ‘For the World’.


Mr Douglas concluded in summary: “We need to be bold in addressing the climate issues facing the planet. We need to be decisive. There is no other way forward. That is why we have been insistent that we continue to focus on the challenges and opportunities, many of which are available today, as a fundamental strategic priority for our business, spearheaded by the Etihad Sustainability Programme comprising the Etihad 787 Greenliner and Airbus A350 Sustainability50 fleets, and the many partners who have now joined in the crusade. We will succeed, because we must”.