Air France cuts CO2 emissions by 45 percent on demo flights

by Airline Ratings Editors
May 21, 2022
Air FRance
Congratulations @AirFranceFR for his Paris-Montreal flight powered by sustainable fuels (SAF) & mobilizing several methods conducive to reducing the carbon footprint: the flight thus reduced its emissions by 50%. Initiative proving that sustainable int'l aviation is on the right track!

Air France has conducted two eco demonstration flights with a cut of 45 per cent in CO2 emissions. The flights were detailed in ICAO’s Uniting Aviation which we reprint in full below.

In April Air France launched “Air France ACT“, a programme that aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 per cent per passenger-km by 2030 compared to 2019 (i.e. 12 per cent less total emissions). To demonstrate how this objective can be achieved, the airline simultaneously implemented a series of actions on two of its flights leaving from Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

This project is part of the “Skyteam Sustainable Flight Challenge”, an initiative aimed at stimulating and encouraging innovation by inviting the alliance’s member airlines to operate the most eco-responsible flights possible from May 1 to 14 2022.

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Through this initiative Air France intends to:

  • measure and illustrate the effectiveness of methods already implemented and proven, such as new-generation aircraft, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), eco-piloting, and the use of electric ramp and cargo transport equipment
  • explore new avenues that could be exploited in the future, such as the extensive use of artificial intelligence to optimise flight paths or the use of autonomous tractors for baggage transport,
  • offering customers more sustainable, local and seasonal catering, limiting food waste by allowing them to choose the in-flight menu before they fly, and limiting single-use plastic,

The Air France demonstration operation took place on two commercial flights, one to Montreal operated by an Airbus A350 on May 3, 2022, and the other to Lisbon on May 4, 2022, operated by an Airbus A220. These latest-generation aircraft, which are at the heart of Air France’s fleet renewal strategy, consume 20 to 25 per cent less fuel than previous generation aircraft. Their noise footprint is reduced by a third. By 2030, these aircraft will account for 70 per cent of the Air France fleet, compared with 7 per cent today, thanks to an investment of one billion euros per year between now and 2025.

The Air France flight to Montreal was fuelled with 16 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and the flight to Lisbon with 30 per cent SAF, compared with 1% currently used on flights leaving from France under the current regulations. These non-fossil fuels are produced from biomass such as used cooking oil. They do not compete with the food chain and allow an average reduction of 80 per cent in CO2 emissions compared to conventional fuel over their entire life cycle. To take the example of used vegetable oils, this means taking into account the capture of CO2 during the growth of the plant, its first life as cooking oil, its recycling and its use as aviation fuel.

On the ground and onboard, the pilots implemented eco-piloting techniques, such as taxiing on a single-engine on the ground and optimising trajectories in real-time, in coordination with air traffic control.

The use of these methods enabled a reduction of close to 45 per cent in CO2 emissions on each of the two flights. This operation and its significant result were made possible thanks to the commitment of staff from all Air France sectors, pilots, flight crews, ground staff, cargo and maintenance personnel, commercial services and operational support. Several other companies and partners have also contributed to this achievement, such as Airbus, TotalEnergies, Groupe ADP, Servair, Charlatte, Navya, and Montreal and Lisbon airports. This joint action is in line with Air France’s conviction that the decarbonization of the aviation sector will be the result of a joint collaboration with manufacturers, airlines, airport authorities, public authorities and national and international bodies.

According to Vincent Etchebehere, VP of Sustainability and new mobilities at Air France, “After the announcement of our new science-based CO2 emission reduction targets, it was important for us to illustrate in concrete terms how our sector must transform itself to respond to the climate emergency. On two flights, to Montreal and Lisbon, we have involved our partners and customers in a process aimed at proving the performance of the exisiting procedures, and at coming up with new solutions to take our efforts to reduce our emissions one step further. Our environmental transition is demanding and complex, but it is not an option. Air France is determined to explore all the avenues of innovation used by the other airlines in the SkyTeam alliance, which share its ambition to make air transport compatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”

The figures, such as the level of reduction in CO2 emissions for each of the levers activated, as well as the feedback from customers present on both flights will be analysed. This information will be used to consider the most appropriate ways of limiting the carbon footprint of Air France’s scheduled operations in the future.

These findings will be shared with the other SkyTeam alliance airlines that took part in the Skyteam Sustainable Flight Challenge. The entire Air France environmental strategy can be consulted on the dedicated website.

Air France actions implemented at each stage of the trip: 

Before the flight :

 A message is sent to customers to ask them to limit the volume and weight of their baggage. In order to limit food waste, they are encouraged to pre-select their meals so only the necessary products are loaded on board;

  • In the lounges, more sustainable, local and seasonal products are offered and eco-responsible materials are used;
  • Fully electric ground operations, with electric push-back of the aircraft, transport of crews by electric bus between their base and the aircraft parking stand and electric transport of cargo.


  • Use of new generation aircraft (Airbus A350, Airbus A220) emitting up to 25 per cent less CO2;
  • Use of 16 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (produced by TotalEnergies) on the flight to Montreal and 30 per cent on the flight to Lisbon, in the case of these two flights allowing a 90 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle, higher than the industry average of 80 per cent;
  • Use of eco-piloting techniques (taxiing on just one engine, use of on-board innovations for tactical trajectory optimisation, optimisation of climb and descent), allowing a 3 to 4 per cent reduction in fuel consumption on each flight;
  • Use of more sustainable catering equipment (lighter, new generation meal trolley, recycled and recyclable trays, tableware made from celullose, FSC wooden cutlery and stirrers, paper cups, removal of individual plastic bottles);
  • Limiting waste by choosing a hot dish before the flight in all cabins and distributing comfort kits (produced from recycled materials and containing organic cosmetics) on request in Business and Premium Economy;
  • Selective sorting on board: sorting of plastic bottles, juice boxes and cans;
  • Introduction of a more sustainable catering service, entirely prepared in France, with a 100 per cent vegetarian offer on medium-haul flights and the possibility for customers travelling to Montreal to choose before the flight between a vegetarian service or a dish including meat from France or fish from MSC sustainable fishing.