Delta Reduces Emissions Over 18 Percent Since 2005

DeltaWhen it comes to the environment, there is much to like about Delta Airlines’ recently released CSR report. The airline that flies to almost 340 destinations in 65 countries on six continents, operating almost 1,300 aircraft, reduced its annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 8.5 million metric tons. That represents an 18.4 percent reduction since 2005.

One of the airline’s initiatives that is helping Delta reduce GHG emissions is replacing its fleet of 50-seat regional jets with bigger, more efficient aircraft that produce less emissions per seat. This year, the airline will retire forty-nine 50-seat aircraft and add 28 larger planes. Aircraft emissions account for 98 percent of Delta’s carbon footprint. Last year, Delta became the first U.S. legacy carrier to receive verification of its 2005 to 2011 GHG emissions under The Climate Registry. The airline plans to continue third-party verification of its GHG emissions.

There are a few things that are not so good in Delta’s latest CSR report. One of those areas has to do with emissions. While Delta’s Scope 1 subsidiary emissions have decreased by 3.1 metric tons since 2005, Scope 3 regional partners emissions have increased by 2.5 million metric tons. Two other negatives exist in the report, although amidst a sea of environmental achievements.

In 2012, Delta received seven notices of violations (NOVs) in the area of environmental compliance. One of them occurred in Los Angeles and led to a penalty of $2,000 to resolve the violation. The other six, according to the report, were “promptly resolved through working with the appropriate regulatory authority, and no monetary penalties were incurred.” The third negative has do with waste. Total waste increased in 2012 from 2011, which the report blames on Technical Operations decommissioning several projects in Atlanta and Minneapolis.

The focus on fuel efficiency

One of the biggest ways that any airline can reduce GHG emissions is through fuel efficiency. From 2009 to 2012, Delta improved annual aircraft fuel efficiency by an average of 1.7 percent, beating the International Air Transport Association’s fuel efficiency goal of 1.5 percent. Delta’s annual fuel usage for mainline, subsidiary and regional partners has decreased by 2.8 percent since 2009, while the annual weight transported has increased by 2.5 percent.

Last year, Delta launched a program to use lower average weights for children in the flight planning process because more accurate reporting for children’s weights results in less fuel needs. The program saved $3.1 million, going beyond the projected savings of $3 million. In-flight programs as a whole saved the airline over $30 million, and accounted for almost half of the 19.2 million gallons saved across 19 fuel savings initiatives.

In addition, Delta has implemented other programs to reduce fuel usage and improve efficiency. Last year, the airline installed winglets on 14 aircraft which saved over 3.8 million gallons of fuel, and removed water tanks on aircraft that were not used on flights, which reduced the amount of fuel needed. A total of $11 million in fuel burn was saved through reducing aircraft taxi times at airports, reducing ground delays and requiring the use of a single engine on the ground. The airline replaced overhead CRT screens with lighter liquid crystal displays on the Boeing 757-200 fleet, which reduced weight by 212 pounds per aircraft. Software modifications on three fleets improved cruise fuel efficiency, and reduced emissions by almost 5,000 metric tons of carbon.

Photo: Flickr user, InSapphoWeTrust

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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