Impacts of Aviation

It’s estimated that aviation only contributes to 2% of global emissions from all sources, but how is that impacting our planet?

To address environmental issues in the aviation industry, we need to learn how to establish initiatives that will make a difference.

Here, we investigate the environmental impact of aviation on wildlife, air quality and other aspects of climate change, and explore how Etihad Airways can help create a more sustainable future.

Climate change

Characterised by continuing alterations in weather patterns and temperatures, climate change over the past few centuries has largely been attributed to increases in human activity.  

Aviation may not be the largest contributor when compared to farming or cars, but it does have a notable environmental impact. Leaps are constantly being made to reduce that impact and keep the world responsibly airborne.

Air pollution

Air pollution occurs when the atmosphere’s natural properties are changed by chemical, physical or biological agents. This type of contamination can cause several environmental and health-related issues and has many sources.

Not only do aircraft emit carbon dioxide from burning fuel, but other pollutants are also given off mid-flight such as greenhouse gases. The emissions released remain in the atmosphere and contribute towards the warming of the planet.

The growth in the aviation industry has been found to be one of many factors in poorer air quality, which is a concern for a variety of reasons. While not the largest contributor, the environmental impact of aviation on air pollution still requires advancements to be made.

Biodiversity and wildlife

Heat retention caused by carbon emissions is causing climate change, extreme weather, and in many cases, the destruction of natural habitats and wildlife. If climate change continues on the same path, we will see extreme weather disruption, loss of ice-covered landscapes and rising of sea levels.

It’s vital that we act now and help to protect the future of the planet by embracing sustainability and reducing our carbon emissions. Net zero CO2 emissions from all areas of human activity are our solution to combating climate change, as the reduction in greenhouse gases will help to cool the Earth’s atmosphere. Innovation in eco-friendly initiatives are a core part of embracing the necessity of technology, and the safety of our planet.

Water usage

It’s been found that the amount of water used in larger airports is equal to that consumed by a small town. In our craft, we use a potable water solution to reduce fuel burn, making flights more efficient and introduced a jet engine cleaning system to optimise performance of the GE90 and GEnx-1B engines. These improvements have resulted in significant reductions of water-use in engines, and reduced fuel consumption.

Data-driven optimisations have also been implemented on the use of potable water carried on aircrafts for toilets and wash basins. This pattern of usage means flights are able to determine the optimal volumes of water to be loaded, reducing weight, fuel consumption, and water usage.


When we travel, waste can be found everywhere. It’s generated on the aircraft, in the terminal and also via airport construction. It might be a sushi packet in the airport lounge, the green waste generated from airport landscaping, empty bottles and cans on the plane or even the lavatory waste.

All of the waste generated by the aviation industry can create environmental issues if not disposed of in the right way. When dealt with poorly, waste contributes to climate change – especially when it ends up in landfills, which is known to pollute the air with methane.

Airlines and airports around the world are being tasked with reusing and recycling as much as they possibly can to help the industry move towards a greener future.

By replacing paper manuals, newspapers and magazine with electronice versions, we use almost no paper on our planes. We use data to precisely calculate how much water we need on board. And we’re well on our way to reducing single-use plastics on board by 80%, propelled by our new Economy experience.

Landing at the end of 2022, our new Economy experience will see a whole new food and beverage offerinf, using locally sourced, recycled materials and reusable tableware.

How much CO2 will you save?

It’s important to choose an airline that operates a modern and efficient fleet. 

Our CO2 emissions calculator lets you work out the difference in CO2 emissions between an Etihad flight compared to the average emissions of other airlines operating the same or similar route.

To get started, tell us where you're flying to.

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Our sustainability focus

We’re committed to leaving the planet better than we found it. By 2050, we will achieve net zero emissions – that’s our promise as an airline committed to building a sustainable future and addressing environmental issues.

Discover more about Etihad’s sustainability focus, fly greener and receive rewards as you explore the world.