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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 the majority of their total carbon emissions. Avoiding travel 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 an economy class flight instead of a premium economy class flight

See below for details of specific carbon emissions reduction guidance.

Considerations when flying

Things that affect how much carbon is produced:

  • Class of travel
  • Duration of the flight
  • 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 7,140 kg CO2-e
  • Premium Economy class 3,940 kg CO2-e
  • Economy class 2,460 kg CO2-e

Routing: Auckland/Sydney/Auckland

Carbon created:

  • Business class 1,740 kg CO2-e
  • Premium Economy class 960 kg CO2-e
  • Economy class 600 kg CO2-e

Routing: Auckland/Dubai/Paris/Dubai/Auckland

Carbon created:

  • Business class 15,620 kg CO2-e
  • Premium Economy class 8,620 kg CO2-e
  • Economy class 5,390 kg CO2-e

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 halved for those journeys.

Suppliers on the AoG air travel services panel that offer premium economy class currently are: Air New Zealand, Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Virgin Australia.

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 planes can be more efficient and some airlines and routes have seats more often filled than not. There is a wide variation between per passenger emissions for different airlines when you take into account these factors.

What does this mean?

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

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) = 64.2kgCO2e
  • Eurostar 2.30 hours plus check-in one hour – Total 3.30 hours (leaves and arrives centrally) = 4.1kgCO2e = 93% 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) = 59.7kgCO2e
  • Eurostar 2 hours plus check-in one hour – Total 3 hours (leaves and arrives centrally) = 5.8kgCO2e = 90% less carbon emissions


  • Flight 1.25 hours plus check-in two hours – Total 3.25 hours (plus time to get to and from the airports) = 63.3kgCO2e
  • Eurostar 4 hours plus check-in one hour – Total 5 hours (leaves and arrives centrally)= 10.7kgCO2e = 83% less carbon emissions

Agency case studies

Ministry for the Environment

More information available

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.