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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

This year’s buzz word in the travel industry seems to be ‘green.’ People all over the world are trying to find ways to cut back, cut down and live more sustainable and ‘greener’ lives, this includes travel. How can travellers travel green though? We’ve come up with a few ideas.

Today there are many options for travellers who want to limit their environmental footprint when travelling, especially great distances when the only option is either on a freighter boat across the ocean or a long-haul flight. Choosing an airline is important, especially since some airlines are taking extra initiatives to off-set their impact and reduce waste in-flight.

A recent study showed that close to 75% of the waste generated by airline could be recycled but that hardly 20% of it actually is. If you think about it, airlines consume a lot of plastic and glass each and every flight: each passenger has a plastic meal tray filled with plastic dishes, each taking a small bottle of wine or other beverage. By the end you’ve got tonnes of potential recyclable materials that are being disposed of properly. In the USA Delta Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America are some of the biggest recyclers.

Continental Airlines for example spent 16 billion US dollars this past year on cutting its fuel emissions and developing greener terminals, shrinking their carbon footprint significantly. Choose an airline with a younger fleet because often it’s the older aeroplanes that have the lowest fuel efficiency.

Today most airlines are beginning to offer the opportunity to off-set your carbon credits at the same time that you book your flight by either supporting an environmental rejuvenation project or helping the airline renew their aircraft to be more fuel efficient. When you search for flights on you will always see your Co2 emissions displayed with your flight search results. This way you can compare and decide between routes and airlines given the carbon footprint produced for that flight. From what we’ve seen, low cost airlines have a smaller carbon footprint than larger commercial airlines. Low cost airlines also prefer to land/depart from smaller regional airports which result in lower landing fees and consequently lower fares for passengers (for example: Girona instead of Barcelona or Bremen instead of Hamburg).

Why low cost flights have lower carbon footprints:

  • Budget airlines fit more seats into their aircraft. For example, easyJet has a fleet of mostly Airbus 320 aircraft which has 180 seats. A standard Airbus 320 usually has 150 seats. British Airways, which also uses Airbus 320 has theirs fitted with 134 seats, divided into 2 classes, Business and Economy.
  • Budget airlines fill more seats because of lower prices. According to numbers taken from 2008, easyJet filled at least, if not more, 85% of their seats over a 12 month period. The average for an airline like BA was only 75% on European routes.
  • Budget airlines focus on short-haul routes rather than long haul. Even though low cost airlines operate more routes with more passengers, they still emit less emissions. Statistic analysts used the Available Seat Kilometre (ASK) proxy to calculate that British Airways has an ASK that is two and a half times that of easyJet even though easyJet recorded having carried 30% less passengers than BA in 2009.
  • Budget airlines have newer fleets. Younger planes have, naturally, better fuel efficiency due to newer and more modern engines. Ryanair, for example has an average fleet age of 3 years while the average fleet age of BA is more than three times that. gives the power back to the travellers. You can choose your flight according to price, airport preferences, services on-board, you name it. We’ve also included information on carbon credits to help you, as a traveller, choose the best flight, giving you as much information as possible to help you decide. If reducing your environmental impact is important to you when you travel, this tool is for you. You also have the option to choose how you’d like to off-set your carbon credits right on from a number of different programs and initiatives. Check it out for yourself by searching for a low cost flight on

If you’d like to read more about how calculates carbon credits you can read about it on our Flight Carbon Footprint page.

Looking for your next trip? Find the best flights with us!

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