Op-Ed: Sustainable Aviation Will Only Become a Reality Through Collaboration


In this instalment of APEX Media’s Op-Ed series, Expert Opinions, Andrea Häussermann, Sustainability Manager at Recaro Aircraft Seating, outlines the four components she believes are central to ensuring air travel’s recovery from COVID-19 is as “green” as possible.

The aviation industry is at a crossroads. We’re still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many industry players struggling to find their footing. Bloomberg projects that the industry won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, while Forbes believes that over two decades of growth in air travel has been wiped out. 

This seems like a bleak outlook, but the industry should see it as a time to “refresh” and refocus on better serving passengers in the future. And despite it taking a backseat during 2020 due to the pandemic, investment in sustainable resources is still central to many strategic plans. It’s inspiring to see how many organizations have pledged to prioritize energy-efficient programs, but we still have a long way to go.

The important thing to remember is that we can’t rely solely on market leaders to invest in “green” initiatives. Sustainable aviation will only work effectively if we collaborate. All parties, from aircraft manufacturers and suppliers to airlines and airports, have to play their part: We must all actively pursue solutions that demonstrate our commitment to the longevity of flying and the future wellbeing of our planet.

The four main objectives we must focus on as an industry are: 

  • Shifting towards more clean fuel sources
    OEMs have recently made big announcements in this regard. Both Boeing and Airbus have made pledges to develop aircraft that use 100% sustainable fuel. In late 2020, Embraer teamed up with global energy corporation EDP to increase energy efficiency through electric aircraft research.

  • Evaluating the process of extending the lifecycle of aircraft, cabin features, seats and technology systems
    Were heavily invested in this. As part of a larger initiative by the Airbus Cabin Supplier Council to assess the impact of the aircraft lifecycle on CO2 emissions, Recaro Aircraft Seating has been tasked with measuring the eco-efficiency of its aircraft seats by investing in new tools and methods.

  • Reducing operational waste on the ground and in the air
    AlaskaKLM and Singapore Airlines have all made important changes, from investing in uniform recycling programs to cutting back on the amount of single-use plastic in-flight and incentivizing passengers to bring reusable water bottles. 

  • Educating passengers on technologies making flying more “green”
    Consumer-facing social media campaigns, environmental partnerships and educational marketing materials have been promoted by countless airlines and airports, including FrontierO’Hare International and London Heathrow

Moving the needle is much easier when we join forces. We can’t let this opportunity to realign our priorities pass us by, especially with a topic as important as sustainability. A cohesive strategy, in tandem with the drive to innovate, will revolutionize the industry’s sustainability practices from gate to gate.

Commercial aviation will return to growth, we just need to make sure its sustainable growth.