It released its 105-page annual 2017 sustainability report on Wednesday, outlining its plans to reduce carbon emissions and give back to communities, all while boosting the economy.
Chief executive Christopher Luxon, who has never shied away from the size of the national carrier’s carbon footprint, said the company had made traction addressing those problems, but needed to “find a better way forward”.
The aviation industry needed to find low-carbon alternative fuel options soon to meet targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement, he said.
He told shareholders gathered at the company’s annual shareholder meeting last week that no commercially viable bio-fuel was available yet but that the airline was keeping a close eye on developments.
Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand (ECO) executive officer Michael Pringle agreed that airlines had a larger environmental responsibility than most companies because they created aviation emissions.
Pringle said creating bio-fuel was a large and costly challenge for the aviation industry and for Air New Zealand.
Air New Zealand also announced on Wednesday that it had begun plugging its grounded long-haul planes into electricity sources at Auckland and Christchurch International Airports.
Previously, power units in the tails of Boeing 777 and 787-9 aircraft powered the planes’ air conditioning and lighting when they waited on the tarmac. Such a system used jet fuel, generating more than 4,500,000 kilograms of carbon emissions each year.
Air New Zealand head of sustainability Lisa Daniell said getting more planes plugged into electricity was a key priority for year ahead.
Other environmental efforts include the airline’s first-of-its-kind recycling agreement with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and its catering company LSG Sky Chefs, to reuse untouched snacks or drinks between flights.
MPI has allowed the airline to reuse 40 of its Made in New Zealand products including cookies, sugar, water bottles and soft drink cans.
Cabin crew and caterers will take extra handling measures to separate used and un-used sealed products to avoid contamination and biosecurity risk.
The MPI will randomly audit Air New Zealand and LSG to monitor its measures.
Before this deal, biosecurity rules required all incoming flights to send all of their in-flight products to a quarantine landfill to be burned or buried.
The programme has been in action for one month and Air New Zealand has so far recycled 13,000 kilograms of products. It plans to recycle 150,000kg of rubbish a year.
Pringle said food waste was a problem 10 times worse than aviation emissions in New Zealand, so it was sensible for Air New Zealand to tackle it.
He said he would like to see the national airline rid of plastic completely.
A spokesperson for domestic competitor airline Jetstar said its umbrella company Qantas was about to introduce a recycling programme in Australia. It would “possibly” expand it to include flights landing in New Zealand.
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