Pam Fletcher, Delta’s chief sustainability officer, first shared the outline for the sustainability strategy with the airline’s employees via email in late February. The two main focal points of the plan include embedding sustainable practices into the airline’s day-to-day operations, and eliminating the climate impact from flying.
“As we reshape the fundamentals of aviation, we are as dedicated to making immediate progress as we are to investing wisely in disruptive solutions,” she explains in the email. In a prepared statement, the airline details the inspiration for the strategy focuses on what is good for the planet, local communities, and Delta employees, as well as recognizing that sustainability is a business imperative.
The plan itself is full of bold goals for 2050 alongside a series of incremental milestones to measure progress. “We’ve already achieved significant results, like reducing sing-use onboard plastics by nearly 5 million pounds annually and saving 10 million gallons of fuel last year thanks to the work of Delta’s Carbon Council,” Fletcher adds.
The first of the two points, embedding sustainability into day-to-day operations, highlights three key areas—the first being the travel experience in its entirety. Delta explains that the airline is doubling down on eliminating single-use plastics while also diverting waste from landfills. This includes ongoing efforts through partnerships with airports, regulators, and others to increase investments in composting and recycling while also continuing the search for the most sustainable products to maintain an elevated customer experience. An example of this includes the artisan-made amenity kits from the Mexico-based brand Somewhere Somewhere, which help to eliminate five single-use plastic items on board—reducing Delta’s annual plastic use by up to 90,000 pounds.
The other two key areas pertain to the airline’s supply chain which encourage thousands of vendors to develop their own path to net zero emissions, as well as implementing LEED standards at the forefront of facility transformations such as shifting the ground operations and facilities with ground equipment electrification to move away from gas-powered equipment.
The second part of the plan is namely the most the bold: eliminating Delta’s climate impact from flying. Fletcher explains that the vision is centered on advancing sustainable solutions that can decarbonize the industry with a sense of urgency. Eliminating its climate impact will be pursued via investments in efficient aircraft operations aimed at reducing fuel consumption, creating more efficient air traffic control, and studying and innovating new technologies; clean fuel, and a revolutionary fleet, forging a path with aviation innovators into the next century of flight. This piece of the plan is ambitious, and while fully sustainable long-haul aircraft are still a thing of the future, the airline is already partnering with companies like Airbus—which is focused on the potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft—to explore what that future may look like.
“I am excited about our journey ahead,” Fletcher muses. “There’s no better team on the planet to drive the more sustainable future of flying.”