Etihad Airways frequent flyers will be awarded loyalty points and “green tier” status if they offset emissions from their flights, cars and homes as part of the airline’s efforts to improve its sustainability credentials.
Amid growing scrutiny of the global aviation industry’s environmental impact, Etihad announced on Wednesday that it will roll out the programme in early January, and claims it is the world's first airline loyalty programme to reward customers for minimising their carbon footprint in the air and on the ground.
“Empowering our members to offset their personal travel or shopping in a sustainable way, and be rewarded for it, gives the Etihad sustainability programme even more weight,” said Tony Douglas, group chief executive at Etihad Aviation Group.
“Etihad’s commitment to sustainability sits at the core of our business, and we’re pleased to welcome our eight million members to jump on board this journey to sustainability.”
Etihad’s new Conscious Choices programme allows travellers to earn Tier Miles and other rewards when they make more sustainable choices.
Travellers who fly with a lighter carbon footprint by carrying less baggage or offsetting emissions from their flight will earn Tier Miles. These are needed to maintain existing tier status on Etihad, or to move to the next level of the programme.
And when not in the air, Etihad passengers can still earn rewards if they act sustainably. Members can opt to offset their carbon footprint from driving, with one-month, six-month and annual offset packages available for standard cars and SUVs.
Members can also opt to compensate for emissions from unavoidable everyday activities such as using air conditioning, cooking and having the lights on, and be rewarded with Guest Miles.
Travellers can also donate their earned miles to green causes that the airline supports, such as the Katingan Mentaya Project in Indonesia which protects the Asian country's peatland habitats and the several endangered species that live there.
Etihad's sustainable ambitions
The new green loyalty scheme is the latest in the airline’s sustainability ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and halve 2019 emissions by 2035.
“While Etihad has focused on developing technology and innovative solutions for operational efficiency that will actively reduce the CO2 emissions of flying, we have placed an equal focus on the guest. To that end we have been developing our sustainable loyalty programme for the last year, listening to member feedback and taking into account their priorities and expectations for travel,” said Douglas.
From adopting thousands of mangrove trees, operating more electric vehicles and piloting special flights that use alternative fuels, reduce contrails and fly optimised flight paths – the Greenliner programme has introduced a number of carbon dioxide reduction initiatives to the airline’s operations.
In October, Etihad operated one of the world’s most sustainable flights on a journey from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi.
By rewarding passengers for flying with less luggage, using the highest available blend of Sustainable Aviation Fuel and implementing other learnings developed over the past two years of Etihad's Greenliner programme, the Dreamliner aircraft arrived in the UAE having slashed carbon emissions by 72 per cent, when compared to the equivalent flight operated on the same route in 2019.
At the Dubai Air Show last month, Etihad announced that its Greenliner programme, currently operated solely via Boeing 787, is being extended and enhanced by the addition of the airline's first Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered Airbus A350.
The airline also offset all of the emissions from its Greenliner aircraft for the year, the equivalent to approximately 80,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Last month, Australian airline Qantas announced a new Green Tier as part of its loyalty programme, also set to commence in early 2022. The new Green Tier will sit alongside Qantas’s existing tier levels and will reward members who complete sustainable tasks across several areas including flying, travel, leisure and giving back.
The airline has since faced criticism from climate campaigners, reported UK newspaper iNews. Campaigners told the publication that the scheme could encourage people to pollute more rather than less.