KLM Sustainable Flight Challenge 2023

KLM Sustainable Flight Challenge 2023


KLM once again took part in the Sustainable Flight Challenge, operating two roundtrips from May 16 – 18, both featuring more than 100 existing and new sustainability initiatives.

The flights are KL1173 and KL1174 Amsterdam-Trondheim and flights KL603 and KL604 Amsterdam-Los Angeles. A total of 22 airlines worldwide will take part in this second edition of the Sustainable Flight Challenge, operating a total of 72 flights (36 roundtrips).

The aim of the exercise is to learn from each other’s experiences and improve sustainability using currently available means, thereby promoting sustainability throughout the airline industry.

Last year, KLM operated its long-haul roundtrip from Amsterdam to Edmonton in Canada and managed to reduce the flight’s CO2 footprint by 37% compared to regular commercial services (this included blending in 39% sustainable aviation fuel). This year many KLM departments – from flight crew to ground and from passenger services to cargo – have cooperated intensively to improve this percentage, together with sector partners such as aircraft and engine manufacturers and fuel suppliers.

Maarten Stienen, KLM COO & Managing Director: “It’s our responsibility to pursue further sustainability in aviation. Many of our colleagues strive to achieve this on a daily basis. The great thing about the Sustainable Flight Challenge is that all of us – from flight crew to ground personnel and from passenger to cargo services – really do our utmost to achieve the very best sustainability performance. Some of these initiatives cannot be upscaled to our broader fleet yet, but we can apply them on these flights to Trondheim and Los Angeles. It is wonderful to see the passion and enthusiasm of people working on these initiatives at all levels of the company.” 

Marjan Rintel, KLM President & CEO: “KLM aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% in 2030, compared to 2019 levels. That’s quite a challenge, because the options to reduce CO2 emissions in the short run are, regrettably, rather limited. However, we refuse to accept this lying down. Every day, we join hands in seeking new options and solutions that will allow us to achieve our ambitions. The Sustainable Flight Challenge helps us to do so, offering an opportunity to put new ideas into practice and to learn from the ideas of the other participating airlines. The Challenge is a powerful reminder of the importance of cooperation between colleagues, but also with our partners in the sector and chain. I believe it is incredibly important and even essential to share experiences and knowledge. Any initiative that proves to be effective should be implemented as soon as possible. This will enable us to achieve our sustainability ambitions as an industry.” 

CO2 reduction objectives

The CO2 reduction objectives pursued by KLM are in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. By 2030, we aim to have reduced CO2 emissions per revenue tonne kilometre (RTK) by 30% compared to 2019. We also aim to have reduced emissions from our ground operations to zero. Our current fleet of ground equipment is 64% electrical. The main ways we can reduce CO2 emissions at present is through fleet renewal, the utilisation of more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and the reduction of fuel consumption.

Sustainability initiatives

KLM and KLM Cityhopper will operate the flights to Los Angeles and Trondheim with a Boeing 787-10 and an Embraer 190. These are among the most economical aircraft in our fleet, and they are routinely deployed to these destinations. In this second edition of the Challenge, KLM will apply several existing sustainability initiatives, with a view to executing them even better than last year. On top of this, various new initiatives will be tested. Here’s an overview of sustainability features of these flights:

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has been purchased and will be blended into the airport fuel systems, as we normally do. We’ll be working as follows for this Challenge: we will purchase a volume of SAF that is equal to the amount we require to operate the roundtrips from Amsterdam to Trondheim and Los Angeles. We will blend this volume into the fuel systems of the airports in question. A maximum of 50% SAF will count for the Challenge, as this is the maximum volume of SAF airlines are permitted to use. KLM has opted to also blend in the remaining 50%. SAF reduces CO2 emissions by at least 75%, but it remains to be seen what percentage will be achieved on these flights.

KLM Cargo has been focusing on weight reduction, using cardboard supports instead of wood for building pallets, among other things. These supports were tested during last year’s Challenge and were introduced in certain operational domains. Cardboard “skids” (a type of pallet) will also be tested this year. These consist of 94% recycled paper and the weight reduction per skid amounts to 4-8 kilograms. Lightweight board boxes will also be used for the first time, replacing board bags that are used to store documentation and checklists that are relevant to the shipments in question. Moreover, on 15 and 16 May, KLM Cargo and its partners have the intention to use HVO renewable diesel for its entire European trucking network (import and export). On top of that, KLM Cargo will donate 1% of its turnover from all flights operated to Los Angeles in the week of the Challenge to reforestation projects of the Gold Standard Foundation.

Cabin will once again apply all of the weight-reduction measures from last year, including the use of lighter tableware and recycled trays. Last year, we tested seaweed meatballs during the first edition of the Challenge. This dish contained 50% less meat, reducing its environmental impact. This year we will be taking things a step further and will not be serving any meat on the flights to Los Angeles and Trondheim, thereby strongly reducing the impact of our catering. Moreover, we teamed up with our uniform supplier to develop a new blouse/shirt made of organic cotton and recycled polyester. All crew working aboard flight KL603/604 will be wearing the new, more sustainable shirt/blouse. We have also partnered with another supplier to develop special sneakers, which will bring relief to crew on board, who spend a lot of time standing and walking. The idea is to further improve the welfare of our personnel on board. We have also produced a special lightweight crew suitcase, made of recycled plastic bottles to further optimise weight reduction.

Ground operations will ensure optimum loading of the aircraft, making the flight more economical, and electrical ground equipment will be deployed to reduce emissions. Any equipment that still runs on diesel will be fuelled with HVO100, which reduces CO2 emissions by 98% compared to standard diesel. In addition, we won’t be printing at the gate, and we will minimise the number of paper boarding passes to reduce waste.

Cockpit crew has teamed up with air traffic management in different countries to chart the ideal flight route, avoiding the usual detours that flights encounter. Special apps will allow captains to better predict the weather (especially the wind) and determine the ideal climb and descent paths and the speed of the aircraft. The aim is to burn as little fuel as possible. Furthermore, optimum load weight will be carefully assessed in cooperation with our cargo division. The further the centre of gravity is shifted to the rear of the aircraft, the lower the resistance experienced by the aircraft. The ongoing test to avoid contrails will also be conducted aboard the two Challenge flights. Contrails are the white exhaust trails aircraft leave in the sky, which have a negative effect on climate. Finally, we will minimise use of the auxiliary power unit (APU) at the gate. The APU is an auxiliary engine in the tail of the plane, which is used to start an aircraft’s systems and provide electricity aboard the aircraft.

Passenger services has issued information on the special nature of these flights to passengers who have booked, explaining our efforts to achieve optimum sustainability. The information explains how passengers themselves can contribute; for instance, by packing as light as possible, travelling to the airport by public transport, participating in KLM’s reforestation programme or by purchasing extra SAF for their flight.

London-Melbourne Race

A group of enthusiastic KLM employees came up with the idea for the Sustainable Flight Challenge. They were inspired by the historical London-Melbourne Race in 1934, which aimed to make the world more accessible and connect people with one another. The challenges currently facing the airline industry no longer revolve around covering distances are quickly as possible but drive us towards more sustainable operations. That is why the Sustainable Flight Challenge revolves around operating a regular, commercial, scheduled service as sustainably as possible.

Results of the Sustainable Flight Challenge

The Challenge is organised by SkyTeam, and the performance of the participating airlines is evaluated by an external auditor. The results will be released at the end of June. Knowledge gained during the Sustainable Flight Challenge is shared among the participating SkyTeam partners.

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