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Bill DiBenedetto headshot

Alaska Air Group Sets Aggressive Sustainability Goals


Alaska Air Group, which operates Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, has committed to reduce aircraft fuel consumption by 20 percent and use a sustainable aviation biofuel at one or more airports by 2020.

The Seattle-based group’s 93-page sustainability report for 2013, “Innovating for Our Future”—only its second such report—said that since the last report in 2011 fuel efficiency improvements have saved more than 10 million gallons of fuel. The two airlines also cut waste by 50 percent per passenger, saving nearly 2,900 tons of recyclables. Alaska and Horizon are the only airlines that recycle on every domestic flight.

The two airlines have also reduced greenhouse gases by 30.4 percent per revenue mile since the 2004 baseline year.

Air Group’s latest sustainability report covers the airlines’ efforts in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative G4 Core Guidelines, an international standard for sustainability reporting on people, the planet and performance.

Additional highlights from the past two years include:

  • Air Group signed an off-take agreement with Hawaii BioEnergy to buy sustainable aviation biofuels from the Hawaiian Islands beginning in 2018. The airline has set a goal of using sustainable biofuels at one or more of its airports by 2020.

  • Alaska Air Group contributed $15.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions to more than 1,300 charitable organizations since 2011.

  • All Horizon Air flights and three-quarters of Alaska Airlines flights arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are using a new method of airport approaches, which allow aircraft to fly shorter, continuous descents. Estimates are that Greener Skies approaches will save more than 2 million gallons of fuel annually for all properly equipped airlines and reduce emissions by 22,400 metric tons of CO2 — equal to the emissions contained in 96 rail cars of coal. Noise exposure for an estimated 750,000 people in the Puget Sound region has also been reduced.

  • Alaska and Horizon reduced fuel use by 10 million gallons since 2011 (as measured per revenue passenger mile) by flying the Boeing 737 and Bombardier Q400 — the most fuel-efficient aircraft in their classes. The airlines installed winglets on aircraft, used cutting-edge satellite navigation procedures and switched to electric vehicles for airport operations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, among other measures. The International Council on Clean Transportation ranked Alaska Airlines No. 1 in fuel efficiency among U.S. domestic airlines in 2013.

  • By using ground power and preconditioned air while aircraft are parked at the gates, instead of running the aircraft auxiliary power unit (APU), the company saves an estimated 3 million gallons of fuel each year.

Alaska Airlines ordered 50 new Boeing 737 aircraft in the fall of 2012, part of a plan to replace older fleet models with larger, more efficient aircraft. Thirty-seven of the new jets will be MAX aircraft, expected to be
13 percent more fuel-efficient and cost at least 10 percent less to operate per seat mile than the most efficient of Alaska’s current aircraft.

“By maintaining a young fleet and upgrading our airplanes with state-of-the-art aerodynamic and engine improvements, we operate the two most fuel-efficient aircraft fleets in their class,” the report says.

Last year Alaska Air Group began pilot-testing the implementation of a vendor scorecard, which includes environmental sustainability criteria in waste, sustainable sourcing and energy use along the company’s supply chain. It requests information regarding sustainability efforts from all vendors: “In certain cases, specific requirements must be met, and vendors that do not meet the criteria are not considered.” For example, as part of the group’s food and beverage criteria, vendors must commit to 100 percent recycling.

CEO Brad Tilden asserts it’s all about “doing the right thing” for people, plant and performance -- a very good take on the 3P’s.

Image: Alaska Air jet from the 2013 Sustainability Report.

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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