How ‘green’ is your airline? Virgin America and Air France top eco-friendly ranking

Feeling guilty about your carbon footprint in the skies? Greenopia has released its latest annual ranking the top most eco-conscious airlines.

Air France biofuel plane sits on tarmac at airport

‘Eco-friendly airlines’ reads like an oxymoron, but choosing one airline over another can help reduce our impact on the environment – at least according to the latest annual study by green living website, Greenopia.

In the US, Virgin America has been ranked the greenest airline overall – for a fourth year running – the independent report has revealed.

In the Europe category, which was included for the first time in this year’s study, the Air France-KLM alliance group shared the top spot, followed by Lufthansa, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet.

Greenopia studied publicly available airline data and ranked it against criteria such as average fleet age; carbon offsetting schemes; progress with alternatives to fossil fuels; recycling schemes and ‘green’ food options such as local, fairtrade or organic available on flights.

It then gave each airline a score of between one and four leaves to show how eco-friendly it considers each airline to be, with four leaves being the highest score.

Virgin America has consistently received four leaves because it flies some of the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleet of the US-based carriers, the report said.

Virgin America’s average fleet age is three years old – much younger than other airlines flying domestically in the US including Delta (15.7 years), American Airlines (14.9 years), Southwest (12 years) and Air Canada (11.6 years), the study found.

It also praised Virgin’s green initiatives including a carbon offsetting scheme, winglets on planes to help reduce their emissions, progress with biofuels and on board recycling and eco-friendly onboard food options, which include local and organic options.

Air Canada and American Airlines scored just one leaf each. The report noted that American Airlines has some of the oldest fleet and said that the carrier lacks local, organic or fair trade food on flights, does not offer a dedicated carbon offsetting scheme for all passengers or have any LEED certified terminals or offices.

Air Canada fell short due to its poor environmental reporting record, it said.

Europe’s most eco-friendly airline: Air France

In Europe, Air France topped the list for its commitment to biofuels, recycling and carbon offsets.

It said: “Air France is our overall top performer for non-US Airlines and is clearly one of the greenest airlines in the world.

“It is the best carbon efficiency of any airline in this study. Its fleet is young, coming in at just under 10 years, and Air France has been a leader in biofuel research.”

Almost half of Air France’s ground vehicles are electric and there is also a strong focus on recycling and “sustainable” food options, the report added.

Air France’s average fleet age is 9.5 years. While Ryanair has the youngest fleet average (3.8 years) it scored only two leaves.

“Ryanair has very little in the way of environmental reporting, such as its recycling rates and whether it offers any green foot or drink options on its flights. We were also unable to find any formal commitments to biofuel research. And it does not appear to offer carbon offsets to passengers,” the report highlighted.

Top eco-friendly US airlines

  • Virgin America (4 leaves)
  • Alaska Airlines (3 leaves)
  • United (3 leaves)
  • JetBlue (3 leaves)
  • Delta (3 leaves)
  • US Airways (2 leaves)
  • Southwest (2 leaves)
  • Air Canada (1 leaf)
  • American (1 leaf)

Top non-US airlines

  • Air France-KLM (4 leaves)
  • Lufthansa (3 leaves)
  • British Airways (3 leaves)
  • Virgin Atlantic (3 leaves)
  • easyJet (3 leaves)
  • Cathay Pacific (2 leaves)
  • Ryanair (2 leaves)
  • Air New Zealand (1 leaf)
  • SAS (1 leaf)
  • Aer Lingus (1 leaf)

Read more on Greenopia’s ranking here.

Tell us:

Are you conscious about your carbon footprint when you fly? Are you more likely to fly based on price over an airline’s green credentials?

What others have said

  1. i like the ranking. well, here in Nigeria, I work for an airline company, and I have being trying severally to convince the management on the tremendous benefits that could come from being a sustainable airline. I wish the management can buy in to this sustainability idea, and be able to compete globally with virgin america and air france.

    • Bruce

      Actually some people do “give a toss” – at least those of us who care about a future for the human race.Sadly though there are people like you who obviously don’t!

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