Supply Chain Requirement: Transportation – Air Freight

Sector name: Transportation and Warehousing – Air Freight

SIC Code: 45


Major Players


  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • United Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • American Airlines


Major Issues

Energy use and air emissions are major issues for airlines, particularly since the rise in oil prices made fuel the largest cost for U.S. airlines in 2006.  Noise pollution is another issue that might not necessarily be considered a priority – unless there are large populations of people living and working near airports.  Similarly, airlines should consider plane emissions for those surrounding areas, as well.  Land use is also an issue, but is controlled more by airports and municipalities, rather than airlines.


Key Requirements

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a list of environmental regulations and guidance procedures for operating airplanes and airports.  These regulations cover a wide array of issues from water and air quality to socio-economic factors.  Two of these issues that often receive a great deal of attention in regards to air transportation are noise compatibility planning and lowering ground-level emissions through the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions Program (VALE).   


Key Certifications


Getting Started

 For commercial airlines, start and promote inflight recycling to reduce the amount of wastes generated during aircraft/airport operation.  Make recycling part of airline policy and ensure that separating trash from recyclables by airline staff is part of job responsibilities. Implement sufficient maintenance of aircraft, such as engine washing, to ensure that the fuel economy keeps at a high level.

 Businesses who are concerned about which airline they use for travel and shipping purposes should choose airlines or shipping companies that keep sustainability in mind at all points in the supply chain, from packaging to transportation to delivery. 


Going Further

New technologies are continuously being developed that can save airlines fuel, time and money.  Some include Continuous Descent Arrivals (CDA), which helps conserve fuel during landing, and Lido OC flight planning system, which uses digital modeling to plan the most fuel- and cost-effective flight paths.  Similarly, there are already a great deal of electronic equipment already available (such as alternative-fuel vehicles and LED lighting) that can reduce energy consumption and emissions. 

 Consider investing in newly developed biofuels that will reduce harmful air emissions.  For example, a synthetic fuel that is created with renewable sources, such as fatty acids from food, was recently approved by the ASTM International standard for use in airplanes.

 Small and medium sized businesses can participate in carbon offset programs or other environmental offset programs to neutralize their environmental impacts of air travel and shipping.  Many times, both commercial and shipping airlines will allow customers to purchase carbon offsets directly through their websites. 


Advanced Steps

For those airlines committed to a large reinvestment in their fleets, consider incrementally replacing or retrofitting the aircraft fleet that would improve fuel economy and reduce emissions and noise.


 Best Practices Leaders


UPS has implemented a great deal of environmental initiatives specifically for its airline fleet including replacing and retrofitting its fleet of airplanes and even using low-VOC paint, equipment that minimizes the noise level of airplanes, and fuel conservation methods.

 UPS has also embraced computer software and models that help them save fuel, including the Lido program – which has saved UPS more than 1 million gallons of jet fuel – and the CDA model, which has been used on a small number of airplanes. 



FedEx’s sustainability goals are managed through its EarthSmart program.  This program was designed to help FedEx organize all of its efforts to reduce its environmental impact, as well as manage how these efforts are communicated to employees, suppliers, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders.  All of FedEx’s environmental initiatives are categorized into three areas: Innovations and services (such as carbon-neutral shipping), sustainability for employees (engaging workers and making FedEx a health place to work), and outreach with philanthropic organizations (such as environmental conversation groups).  FedEx publishes an annual report of its sustainability efforts; read the 2011 report here


 United Airlines

United Airline’s Eco-Skies program outlines the company’s major sustainability initiative, which are focused on reducing fuel use and emissions, as well as investing in new technologies and alternative energies to run the airline.  United’s efforts have reduce the airline’s fuel use by 32% since 1994. 


 American Airlines

American Airlines’ Fuel Smart program is an employee-led program that helps the airline decrease its fuel consumption and carbon emission.   Since its implementation, American Airlines has saved more than 700 million gallons of fuel and avoiding emission of 14 billion pounds of carbon dioxide


 Key Resources


  • International Air Transport Association (IATA) is an international industry trade group of airlines. Environment, safety and security are IATA’s top priorities. IATA’s activities in the field of environment include aircraft noise, alternative fuels, climate change, fuel efficiency, and local air quality.  IATA has established Technology Roadmap, which provides a summary and assessment of technological opportunities for future aircraft.


  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) is an industry group whose objective is to accelerate the development and commercialization of aviation biofuels. When joining SAFUG, the airline will sign a pledge to pursue the advancement of drop-in biofuels that achieve important sustainability criteria, work with leading organizations to achieve biofuel certification standards, and take actions to enable commercial use of aviation biofuels.


  • The Sustainable Aviation Guidance Alliance (SAGA) is a broad volunteer coalition of aviation interests formed in 2008 to assist airport operators of all sizes in planning, implementing, and maintaining a sustainability program.


  • Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN) is the nation’s first regional stakeholder effort to explore the opportunities and challenges surrounding the production of sustainable aviation fuels. SAFN initiatives include: analyze the most promising, local biomass sources for commercialization; assessed all phases required to develop a sustainable biofuel industry; prioritized state and federal policy recommendations for sustainable aviation fuels.


  • Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) is a coalition of airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers, energy producers, researchers, international participants and U.S. government agencies. Together these stakeholders are leading the development and deployment of alternative jet fuels for commercial aviation.


  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards. Some of such standards lie on biofuel and aircraft engine.


Key Words

Sustainable airfreight; sustainable air transportation; green airline; air environmental initiative; sustainability report

This entry was posted in Supply Chain Information and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Fatal error: Uncaught Exception: 12: REST API is deprecated for versions v2.1 and higher (12) thrown in /homepages/2/d283115547/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/seo-facebook-comments/facebook/base_facebook.php on line 1273