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Air travel services broader outcomes

The government has made it a priority to reduce carbon emissions with the goal of transitioning to a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

For many government agencies, travel represents a large portion of their total carbon emissions. Reducing travel when appropriate will have the largest impact on decreasing your agency’s carbon emission footprint. When reviewing your travel needs, you can use the avoid-shift-improve continuum:

  1. Avoid transport and travel, for example by using video technology
  2. Shift to lower impact modes of transport, for example by taking the train rather than flying in Europe
  3. Improve existing transport modes for example by taking a premium economy class flight instead of a business class flight

See below for details of specific carbon emissions reduction guidance. All emissions are calculated using IATA CO2 Connect.

Considerations when flying

Things that affect how much carbon is produced:

  • Class of travel
  • Duration of the flight
  • Number of stopovers
  • Type of aircraft

Class of travel

For long haul flights, carbon emissions are about three times higher for business class compared to economy class. This is because there's more space per seat, so each person accounts for a larger portion of the whole plane's carbon emissions.

Some examples of average carbon emissions dependent on class of travel are shown below:

Routing: Wellington/Auckland/Singapore/Auckland/Wellington

Carbon created:

  • Business class 3,700 kg CO2
  • Premium Economy class 1,455 kg CO2
  • Economy class 1,006 kg CO2

Routing: Auckland/Dubai/Paris/Dubai/Auckland

Carbon created:

  • Business class 9,944 kg CO2
  • Premium Economy class 3,729 kg CO2
  • Economy class 2,486 kg CO2

What does this mean?

This shows that if your travel policy limited travel to economy or premium economy class for appropriate journeys, your carbon emissions have the potential to be up to 2 thirds less for those journeys.

Suppliers on the AoG air travel services panel that offer premium economy class currently are: Air New Zealand, Emirates, Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa Group (including Austrian and Swiss Airlines) and United Airlines.

Duration of the flight

When the plane takes off it uses more fuel than when it is cruising. For shorter flights, this accounts for a larger proportion of the journey. It means that there will be lower emissions for direct flights than multi-leg trips. This is important as often the cheapest indirect route will incur the highest carbon emissions.

Type of aircraft

Newer "next generation" aircraft are more fuel efficient, and some airlines and routes operate at a higher passenger occupancy than others. There can be a large difference in per-passenger emissions for different flights when you take these factors into account.

Here is an example of the different amounts of carbon created on the same routing, based on various aircraft types:

Routing: Auckland/Sydney/Auckland

Carbon created in economy class:

  • A321neo – 258 kg CO2
  • 787-9 Dreamliner – 299 kg CO2
  • 777-300ER – 319 kg CO2

What does this mean?

When booking international flights, consider asking your travel management services provider about which option would be the most sustainable choice.

You can also estimate the carbon impact of your trip using the IATA CO2 Connect calculator:

IATA CO2 Connect – reliable and accurate CO2 emissions data

Airline sustainability information

Air Chathams – Sustainable air travel

Air New Zealand – Sustainability

Emirates – Sustainability in operations

Etihad – Sustainability

Jetstar – Community and environment

LATAM – Sustainability

Lufthansa Group – Climate and environment

Qantas – Sustainability at Qantas

Singapore Airlines – Sustainability

United – Corporate responsibility report

Virgin Australia – Sustainability

Lower impact transport modes

Consider alternative transport, for example, the Eurostar is significantly less carbon intensive than air travel, despite similar travel times. See below for a comparison of indicative travel times:


  • Flight 1.15 hours plus check-in two hours – Total 3.15 hours (plus time to get to and from the airports) = 65 kg CO2
  • Eurostar 2.30 hours plus check-in one hour – Total 3.30 hours (leaves and arrives centrally) = 2.4 kg CO2 = 96% less carbon emissions


  • Flight 1.15 hours plus check-in two hours – Total 3.15 hours (plus time to get to and from the airports) = 58 kg CO2
  • Eurostar 2 hours plus check-in one hour – Total 3 hours (leaves and arrives centrally) = 2.9 kg CO2 = 95% less carbon emissions

Further information

If your agency would like more information on carbon emission reduction, please either contact your travel management services provider or email the travel team.

If your agency has examples of initiatives you are currently working on then please email the travel team as we would love to hear from you.