Qantas is Australia’s largest airline by fleet size, international flights and international destinations. It typically operates around 1,500 flights using over 300 aircraft, which consume up to 14 million litres of fuel each day. Over 95 per cent of the organisation’s emissions come directly from jet fuel (Qantas Group 2020c).
In November 2019, Qantas became the second airline group in the world, behind British Airways owner IAG, to commit to ‘net zero carbon emissions by 2050’ (Qantas 2019; Smout 2019). Qantas’ pledge covers both its flights and supporting ground activities, and includes a commitment to cap the organisation’s emissions from domestic and international flights at 2020 levels (Qantas Group 2020b).
The airline is striving towards the IATA industry target of a 1.5 per cent average annual fuel efficiency improvement from 2009 to 2020 (Qantas Group 2020c). Although the airline has not yet achieved this, with an average annual improvement of less than 1 per cent so far (Qantas Group 2020b), Qantas expects a step change towards this target with the retirement of older fleet and the introduction of more efficient aircraft at the end of 2021. Qantas is using data and analytics to optimise fuel efficiency through flight planning, in air route optimisation, changes to flying and taxiing techniques and maintenance planning. The company is also reducing the weight of on-board components and equipment, and increasing the proportion of ground equipment powered electrically.
Qantas has committed to invest $50 million to accelerate development of more sustainable aviation fuels. The lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from aviation biofuels can be significantly lower than those from fossil fuels with certain feedstocks and end-to-end processing techniques (de Jong et al. 2017). Qantas anticipate that lifecycle emissions from aviation fuel could be reduced by 80 per cent.
Offsetting is a necessary component of Qantas’ efforts to reduce its emissions. The airline offsets emissions from their employees’ business travel and fuel consumed by ground based activities (Qantas Group 2020a).
The global airline industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, and may experience permanent changes in the wake of the crisis. Some airlines including Qantas, are receiving government financial support to assist their survival. At the time of writing, Qantas’ net zero by 2050 commitment remains in place.