Etihad Airways ramps up sustainability efforts at Dubai Airshow 2021

The airline partners with key industry players as it continues on its path towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

The sight of two Etihad Airways-liveried aircraft, a Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, parked alongside each other at the Dubai Airshow is a symbol of what the future of aviation may hold.

Etihad ramped up its sustainability efforts at the industry event, with cross-organisational initiatives and high-level partnerships. It has entered into agreements with leading manufacturers, suppliers and stakeholders as it continues to build on its sustainability programme and global decarbonisation efforts.

The airline’s sustainability initiatives have so far centred on the airline’s fleet of GEnx-powered Boeing 787s, under the Greenliner Programme. This resulted in the airline operating one of the world’s most sustainable commercial passenger flights in October, with Etihad’s EY20 eco-flight from London to Abu Dhabi emitting 72 per cent less carbon dioxide than an A380 aircraft operating the same route. These efforts will now be complemented by a similar programme focusing on the airline’s Rolls Royce Trent XWB-powered Airbus A350 fleet.

The first of Etihad’s A350s was unveiled at the Dubai Airshow this week and has been dubbed the Sustainability50. It carries a new “UAE50” livery, which simultaneously references the 50th anniversary of the federation of the UAE and the airline’s commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The new partnership with Airbus establishes a framework to enhance sustainability across Etihad’s A350 fleet, with a focus on the promotion and commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel, waste and weight management, and the development of data-driven analysis. The introduction of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine in the A350 fleet is yet another credential in Etihad’s drive for sustainability, and a new agreement between the airline and the manufacturer will focus on maximising the potential of this engine, while targeting the application of electrification technologies and hybrid systems.

Tony Douglas, group chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group, highlighted the significance of these key industry players working together towards a common goal of decarbonisation. “There's no silver bullet for this one, no obvious single act that will provide a solution. It's going to require the combination and the sum of many different organisations and governments working together for small, incremental improvements.”

He stressed the need for governments and regulators to support the industry as it moves towards a more sustainable future. “Governments and regulators must help the industry to drive innovation for long-term solutions to decarbonising aviation. Support is needed for development of affordable and sufficient supply of sustainable fuels. Optimising flight paths on the busiest routes in the world would prevent untold amounts of CO2 from being pumped into the atmosphere. There is a big opportunity here that doesn’t require any new technology to implement and could be implemented today if there was a will.”

Etihad’s Greenliner Programme was also renewed during the show, under which the airline will continue to partner with Boeing and GE to test and implement long-term decarbonisation solutions for commercial application, with a renewed focus on propulsion, and exploring opportunities to test new technologies from GE Aviation and GE Digital that lower emissions.

Etihad’s collaborations with partners such as Boeing, GE, Airbus and Rolls-Royce underpins its strategic objectives to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in emissions intensity in its passenger fleet by 2025, cut 2019 net emissions by 50 per cent by 2035 and, ultimately, reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“As we continue our march towards sustainable aviation, we know that we cannot do this alone,” says Douglas. “Etihad’s Greenliner Programme was designed as a vehicle for collaboration, successfully bringing together over 50 partners in the past two years. As we now expand that programme with the introduction of the A350 under the Sustainability50 programme, we once again make a call to arms, inviting more stakeholders across the aviation industry to help us on this path.”

Updated: November 17th 2021, 8:46 AM