Despite frequent representation to the contrary in the non-technical press, business aviation in fact has a very small impact on the environment in terms of both noise and emissions: Business aviation’s global emissions are very small, being approximately 2% of all aviation emissions and just 0.04% of global man-made emissions. In Europe, business aviation represents 8% of “airline” traffic, connecting 1400 European airports, of which 900 are connected by business aviation operators only1.
This is because, rather than running schedules to busy hubs where long queues before take-off and holding patterns before landings are almost the norm, business aircraft are operated on specific missions to usually smaller, uncongested airports closer to the final point of business. This also avoids the need for feeder flights between hub and final destination.
0.04% of global man-made emissions come from business aviation
Whilst they do not carry so many passengers and therefore the emissions per passenger may be higher than on a full airliner, business aircraft emit less emissions at source. Moreover, sustainability2 is not related to the number of passengers carried, but rather it is a measure of the impact on the environment versus economic gain and here business aviation scores highly, with high-value customers generating considerable economic value per trip and only a very limited impact on the environment.
Despite its excellent environmental record, business aviation continues to take its environmental responsibilities very seriously. For more than a decade it has been a pioneer in the aviation sector, with a number of ambitious voluntary commitments to cut CO2 emissions. As a result, the sector has already improved the full efficiency of its products by 40% over the past 40 years and, in line with its 2009 commitment, pledged an average of 2% fuel improvements per year between 2010 and 2020. Moreover, it is committed to achieving carbon neutral growth from 2020 and will reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050, relative to 2005.
The very purpose of business aviation is to improve efficiency, which is why its aircraft are more often updated than the majority of airlines, leading the way in innovative technologies. The sector is expected to continue to do so, with business aircraft built in 2050 predicted to be 45% more fuel efficient than those built in 20053.
Another key element in enabling a continued reduction in emissions is the use of Sustainable Alternative Fuels (SAF)4, where business aviation has been in the vanguard. This kind of fuel is coming increasingly into use, with only SAF blended fuel being available at Californian airports served by some business aircraft handlers5. Since 2011, over 450,000 commercial flights have been operated using sustainable aviation fuel, this shows the potential of SAFs, which could cover 2% of total fuel demand by 20256.
With all these measures combined, the sector is convinced its aircraft will achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050.
Likewise on the ground, business aviation airports and handling agents are continuing to improve their environmental performance by replacing ground service equipment and vehicles for carbon neutral alternatives, in addition to other energy reductions being made across the airport infrastructure. Just by way of example, at Farnborough Airport - a UK dedicated business aviation airport - emissions management has formed a key element in improving their sustainability for more than a decade, resulting in the airport becoming carbon neutral as long ago as 2018 and continuing to improve the balance between offsetting and reducing emissions at source.
2 A sustainable business or a green business, is an enterprise that has minimal negative impact or potentially a positive effect on the global or local environment, community, society or economy.