To celebrate the 2022 Winter Olympics being held in Beijing, China, Xiamen Airlines recently operated its first fully carbon-neutral flight. The carrier has committed to being the first airline in China to sell carbon-neutral tickets to the public. This flight has gone one step further in highlighting that the airline industry must take further measures to operate in a more environmentally friendly manner. Let’s find out more.
The flight in question
On February 4th, 2022, Xiamen Airlines operated its first fully carbon-neutral flight. According to Flightradar24, the flight (MF8101) from Xiamen City to Beijing lasted 2 hours and 13 minutes. The distance between the two cities is 1,667 kilometers (1,036 miles). It was operated by a Boeing 787-8 aircraft with the registration B-2761. Having departed Xiamen ten minutes late at 11.10, the flight landed in Beijing ahead of schedule at 13:23.
The company claims this flight to be the first carbon-neutral flight operated in China. It also commits to the flight being the shape of things to come. Whilst flight MF8101 is operated daily, this flight, in particular, used additional techniques to ensure that its carbon footprint was reduced. These included optimizing flight paths, eradicating single-use plastics, and reducing all unnecessary weight to reduce overall fuel burned during the flight.
Carbon neutral Games
The flight was operated to support the 2022 Winter Olympics currently being held in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The games run from February 4th until February 20th, 2022. Beijing has become the first city in the world to host both summer and winter Olympic Games.
The Games have also been widely promoted as the first games to fully embrace the green movement and to be completely carbon-neutral. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that far fewer spectators can travel to the Games, the organizers have also committed to taking other measures to decrease the carbon footprint. From modifying buildings previously used during the summer 2008 Games, to using vehicles powered by hydrogen, natural gas and electricity and using renewable power, the Games have been promoted as the greenest yet.
Xiamen’s green scheme
Back in November 2021, Xiamen Airlines in conjunction with Fuzhou-based Industrial Bank launched its program of carbon-neutral flights. The aim of the program is to raise additional revenue through the selling of special tickets. In turn, these funds will be used to restore fragile ecosystems throughout China.
The airline is selling tickets on these flights for an additional CNY10 ($1.60) over the standard price. This additional revenue will be used to offset carbon emissions produced by the flight itself, thus reducing its overall environmental impact. In simple terms, carbon offsetting is the process of generating revenue by placing a monetary value on carbon emissions.
This revenue is then used to fund schemes that benefit and protect the world’s environment. These tickets will be optional at first, for a trial period. However, the airline hopes to roll out the scheme across its network in the near future.
Xiamen Airlines operated a Boeing 787-8 on the special flight. Photo: Xiamen Airlines
How does the scheme work?
The ticket price is based on a carbon emissions compensation mechanism. The mechanism is officially known as the ‘China Certified Emissions Reduction’ scheme. The scheme enables any carbon emissions beyond a certain point to be offset in order to protect the world’s carbon sinks.
Carbon sinks, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, are geographical areas that can capture and store a large amount of carbon. These areas are part of what is known as the world’s ‘Blue Carbon Sink’. In China, coastal mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass beds all contribute to the country’s carbon sink. The Xiamen Airlines scheme aims to restore and protect these areas in particular.
A growing industry-wide trend
Xiamen Airlines hopes that further roll-out of the environmentally friendly tickets will follow. The airline follows in the path of several other airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Etihad to launch its own carbon-offsetting scheme. The carrier hopes to pave the way throughout the airline industry in China to demonstrate how its airlines can reduce the impact of their operations to benefit the planet as a whole.
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