JetBlue today became the first US airline to succeed in making its domestic operations carbon neutral. The airline follows several European flag carriers who have made such commitments aimed at their domestic networks within the past year.

A year ago, if you asked many people what the key focus of the aviation industry should be going forwards, the answer would’ve likely been related to sustainability and carbon emissions. Indeed, given the emphasis on aviation’s emissions, the industry has been taking leaps and bounds to increase its sustainability. JetBlue’s domestic carbon neutrality is a part of this.

A United States domestic first

Today’s announcement by JetBlue is a first for a United States airline. The hybrid (in terms of fares) carrier is now effectively not emitting CO2 into the atmosphere while flying. The airline is focusing on cutting emissions in the first place, which means that it will be looking towards more Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).

However, when flying within the United States with JetBlue, your emissions are zero. Of course, this is not actually the case as emissions still come out of the engines while the plane is flying. However, they are offset, such as by planting trees that will consume CO2.

Joanna Geraghty, president, and chief operating officer at JetBlue commented,

“The global pandemic reinforces the need to mitigate risks that threaten the health of our business. Our commitment to sustainability has only become more important as we prepare our business for a new climate reality”

A greener future

JetBlue has been working on its carbon offsetting scheme since 2008. The airline’s previous achievements saw it operate as carbon neutral for a month in both 2015 and 2019. In total, over 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 have already been offset by the airline in the past 12 years.

However, JetBlue has higher ambitions, and going forward will offset more emissions each year than the last 12 years combined. Indeed, the US airline believes that it will now offset 15-17 billion pounds of CO2 each year. This is the equivalent of removing 1.5 million vehicles from the road. Of course, going forwards, JetBlue hopes this figure will drop as it becomes more efficient.

What are other airlines doing?

Around the world, other airlines are also tackling their emissions with carbon offsetting. Both British Airways and Air France began offsetting emissions on all domestic flights in the United Kingdom and France, respectively. However, this is on a much smaller scale to what JetBlue is achieving.

Airlines are also looking to tackle other problems such as single-use plastic waste, and cutting down on unnecessary weight onboard aircraft. Take British Airways, for example. The British flag carrier is looking to remove 700 tonnes of single-use plastics from its flights this year. However, the airline is making a concerted effort to ensure that no replacement items are heavier.