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Aviation leaders awarded prestigious CAPA Environmental Sustainability Awards for 2023


The award winners were presented at a gala dinner on Thursday night, as part of the CAPA Asia Aviation Summit. The event was attended by aviation leaders from around the world, emphasising the industries devotion to environmental goals.

CAPA – Centre for Aviation (CAPA), the world’s trusted source of aviation market intelligence and a part of the Aviation Week Network, recognised Wizz Air, Pegasus Airlines, IndiGo, Volaris and Alaska Airlines among the globe’s top airlines at CAPA’s annual Environmental Sustainability Awards for Excellence in Kuala Lumpur this evening (02-Nov-2023). Other winners included Pittsburgh International Airport and Lufthansa Technik.

CAPA – Centre for Aviation, Content & Marketing Director, Marco Navarria said: “The CAPA Aviation Sustainability Awards for Excellence utilises a range of independently sourced data and analysis, as well as an in-depth judging process to recognise aviation leaders putting environmental sustainability at the forefront of their strategy. All of the winners in 2023 have shown a commitment to environmental sustainability initiatives and strive to achieve not only their own goals but also lead the industry as it heads towards a net zero future”.

Aviation Winners

The airline winners across the global and regional categories are as a result of their leading rankings from the CAPA Envest Global Environmental Sustainability Benchmarking Report 2023, while additional categories were selected from a rigorous judging process led by CAPA’s internal analysts.

The category winners have established themselves as leaders among their peers, providing a model of operation that others can aspire to.

  • Global Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year
    • Wizz Air
  • EMEA Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year
    • Pegasus Airlines
  • Asia Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year
    • IndiGo
  • North American Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year
    • Alaska Airlines
  • Latin American Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year
    • Volaris
  • Environmental Sustainability Airport of the Year
    • Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Environmental Sustainability Innovation of the Year
    • Lufthansa Technik – AeroSHARK
Global Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year: Wizz Air

For the second year in a row Wizz Air has been awarded the CAPA Global Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year.

Wizz Air’s top ranking in the benchmarking report is due to their unmatched sustainability strategy that has resulted in the airline embracing a young, fuel efficient and high-capacity fleet across its network, along with investing in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) research and use, and ongoing training efforts with staff.

The ultra-low-cost-focused Wizz Air emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the clear winners in Europe.

While travel overall in Europe remains below pre-pandemic levels, with many airlines yet to rebuild their networks and operation, Wizz Air has not only managed to outstrip the growth of most peer airlines, but also to grow its overall traffic by more than a third.

The airline has displayed adaptability and flexibility during the COVID pandemic, as well as in its response to the ups and downs of the travel recovery period.

In 2022 and 2023 Wizz Air has rapidly expanded links between its existing operating bases across its core markets in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as into markets across Western Europe and North Africa. With an order book of almost 350 aircraft, concentrated on high-capacity narrowbodies with impressive range capacity, the airline is also embracing a ‘Go East’ strategy, building links to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel to expand its network further.

As travel continues to re-emerge in Europe, Wizz Air will only continue to take a leading role in this process and expand its commitment to sustainability. The airline is also refining its own business and operating model, seeking to improve performance when it comes to flying, financial health and customer service.

József Váradi, Chief Executive Officer at Wizz Air, said: “It is a great honour to receive the CAPA Global Environmental Sustainability Award for the second consecutive year. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Wizz Air’s team and our commitment to further reduce CO2 intensity by 25% by 2030. Our ultra-low-fare model has proven to be sustainable by design: we operate the latest technology aircraft in the most efficient way, with the lowest emissions per passenger per km in the industry. We have also made significant investments in SAF, both securing volumes for the mandates that are coming in 2025 in Europe and helping bring new technologies to life. We are proud to be leading the charge towards a more sustainable air travel and setting standards for the industry.”

EMEA Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year: Pegasus Airlines

Innovative, dynamic and forward looking, Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines is one of the fastest growing airlines of the post-pandemic era. Having completely recovered in terms of operating capacity during 2022, with leading industry performance in terms of non-fuel unit costs, while also reporting record revenue and profit, the airline is now considering a wider scope for the future.

With an extensive network spanning Europe, the Middle East, CIS and North Africa, Pegasus is looking to grow its young and highly efficient fleet of 100 aircraft by continuing its investment in airbus 321neos: another 36 aircraft were ordered in July 2023 to continue its fleet expansion and modernisation. The airline is also considering extending its network coverage and growing its business through new products and customer segments. Pegasus CEO Güliz Oztürk believes there is potential to accelerate growth even further, with opportunities presented by capacity and infrastructure improvements and new markets.

Alongside this, Pegasus is embracing the wider challenges that air travel faces beyond climate transition by undertaking a range of initiatives around social and corporate responsibility, including programmes promoting diversity and gender equality. At the same time, it is working to improve its efficiency both on the ground and in the air, and is forging innovative partnerships in areas such as digitalisation, operations, training and aircraft finance.

Asia Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year: IndiGo

IndiGo is a testament to the power of low cost carriers and the potential of commercial aviation in India and the wider Asia Pacific.

Launched in 2006 by InterGlobe Enterprises with a single aircraft and major ambitions, the airline has expanded rapidly. Over the past 17 years IndiGo has grown to a fleet size of 335 aircraft and is now India’s largest airline by passengers and revenue, and number eight in the world by passengers and daily departures.

With a network of more than 80 domestic and 30 international destinations, IndiGo offers access to air transport to millions of people throughout South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The airline’s mission is to bring affordable air connectivity to India and beyond, combining high levels of professionalism, excellent operational performance and ‘hassle-free’ service to improve connections wherever it operates.

Under its ‘Reassure, Develop and Create’ growth strategy, IndiGo has huge ambitions for the future. With an industry-leading order book of more than 950 aircraft – all high-capacity next generation narrowbodies – it has declared intentions to double its size within the decade and continue to build its network, domestically and internationally. At the same time, the airline seeks to remain true to its low cost service proposition and deliver growth in the most financially and environmentally sound way possible.

IndiGo Airlines CEO Pieter Elbers said: “At IndiGo we are immensely proud and humbled to be recognized as one of the lowest CO2 emitting airlines per unit in the world. Currently, around 80% of our fleet is new generation. With our continuous and massive investments in new generation aircraft, we have been able to reduce our CO2 footprint per available seat kilometre by around 20% in FY 2023 as compared to seven years ago. Today’s award is a testimony to our strife to deliver our customer promise in the most sustainable way possible.”

North American Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year: Alaska Airlines

From humble roots as a regional airline, Alaska Airlines has expanded over the past 90 years to become one of the leading airlines in North America.

With hubs in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Fransisco and Los Angeles, the airline has become a major player not only on the US West Coast, but also in transcontinental and international markets.

Alaska Airlines returned to pre-pandemic levels of flying during early 2023, while also keeping its operational performance at record levels. The airline has now plotted out a comprehensive strategic roadmap to return to profitable growth in the current financial year.

In addition, Alaska Airlines is taking a leading role in embracing the challenges of sustainability and diversity.

In recent years it has worked with partners to expand the supply and use of sustainable aviation fuel and introduced AI-powered route optimisation technology to improve the efficiency of its flying. It has also committed to a venture to support start-ups that solve core strategic challenges for aviation, and invested in the development of potentially revolutionary technologies such as hydrogen-electric propulsion.

Beyond this, the airlines has launched incentive programmes for travellers to reduce their carbon footprints, expanded its use of recycling, and launched a new pilot academy and aviation hiring programme to improve hiring and representation in its leadership.

“This award is a credit to the 23,000 people at Alaska Airlines and each person’s daily effort to run an efficient operation, to reduce waste, and to innovate and create a more sustainable future for aviation,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of Public Affairs and Sustainability. “This award doesn’t mean we’ve crossed the finish line. Rather, we see this as motivation to continue the journey.”

Latin American Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year: Volaris

Few airlines can claim to have exited the COVID pandemic in a stronger position than they went in.

Volaris took an aggressive and agile approach to the pandemic, foreseeing equal parts challenge and opportunity in the downturn. This approach has allowed the ultra-low cost carrier to stake out stronger positions in both the domestic and international markets, positioning it as one of the leading airlines in Latin America.

With a vision of delivering “widespread, accessible, and sustainable air travel”, Volaris is one of the few LCCs in the region that is embracing the challenge of climate change.

During 2022 the airline closed a sustainability-linked pre-delivery aircraft financing facility, continued its investment in high-efficiency next generation narrowbodies, and partnered with Airbus to improve both the affordability and availability of sustainable aviation fuels in Latin America.

Volaris sits in one of the world’s most exciting aviation markets. Mexico is a fast-growing economy with low air travel penetration and plenty of opportunities for both domestic and transborder growth. With ambitions to double revenue, profitability and free cash flow by 2025, Volaris is on a trajectory to be a leader in regional and international aviation.

Volaris President & CEO Enrique Beltranena said: “Receiving CAPA’s Latin American Airline of the Year Award for Environmental Sustainability for the second consecutive year reaffirms our commitment to sustainable aviation. We have continued to advance our emissions reduction strategy by investing in a sustainable fuel start-up and by publishing our first TCFD report, among other activities. This distinguished recognition inspires us to continue offering, together with our industry partners, accessible and sustainable services that prioritize the well-being of communities and the environment.”

Environmental Sustainability Airport of the Year: Pittsburgh International Airport

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is a global leader in environmental sustainability.

The facility is operated by the Allegheny County Airport Authority and functions as the major international gateway for the Greater Pittsburgh Region, serving nearly 10 million passengers annually.

Recently the airport celebrated the two-year anniversary of its one-of-a-kind microgrid – the world’s first to completely power an airport using solar energy and natural gas produced on-site. The airport constructed nearly 10,000 solar panels atop a closed landfill on airport property, land otherwise unsuitable for development, a first for the state of Pennsylvania.

Looking to the future, the airport is working to become a sustainable fuel pioneer with a goal of developing hydrogen and Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on-site to further reduce emissions for the aviation industry.

“Thank you to CAPA for recognizing Pittsburgh International Airport as a global aviation leader in sustainability,” said PIT CEO Christina Cassotis. “From our first-in-the-world microgrid to our goal of producing SAF and hydrogen on-site, PIT is focused on building a sustainable future and reflecting our region’s innovation right at the airport.”

PIT is also in the midst of billion-dollar new terminal program which will be a LEED Gold certified facility upon completion with energy efficiencies incorporated as part of the design and other sustainable features including rainwater recycling. ACAA is also helping to repopulate the honeybee population by hosting dozens of bee colonies across its 8,800 acres resulting in more than a million bees to pollinate flowers and other agriculture.

PIT has been a leader in airport development and reinvention for the past decade. It has remade itself into a leading O&D facility, attracting new airlines and routes both domestically and internationally. At the same time, the airport has capitalized on Pittsburgh’s thriving tech economy by bringing that innovation into the terminal through its xBridge Innovation Center – and on-airport location to pilot the latest technology in real world applications.

Environmental Sustainability Innovation of the Year: Lufthansa Technik – AeroSHARK

Lufthansa Technik’s AeroSHARK is the definition of innovation.

Commercial aviation continues to seek out new ways to improve its fuel efficiency and reduce its emissions footprint. AeroSHARK is an aircraft coating jointly developed by Lufthansa Technik and BASF that imitates shark skin in order to reduce friction resistance, lowering drag and thus fuel consumption on commercial aircraft.

AeroSHARK being the culmination of decades of research, simulation and testing, application of the film on two different Boeing 777 variants showed fuel savings of around 1%. According to estimates by Lufthansa Technik, this offers fuel savings of several hundred metric tons per year per aircraft. The coating is expected to last for more than four years before requiring replacing.

Both the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration awarded Lufthansa Technik a ‘Supplemental Type Certificate’ allowing application of the nature inspired technology on any Boeing 777-300ER and 777F aircraft.

Initially modifications will cover more than 20 long-range aircraft across the Lufthansa Cargo and SWISS fleet, promising savings of more than 8000 metric tons of fuel per year and more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

“Environmental sustainability isn’t just an aspiration; it’s a journey of relentless innovation. With AeroSHARK, we’re not only saving fuel; we’re fuelling change,” said Johanna Koch, Vice President Corporate Sales Southeast Asia and Indian Subcontinent of Lufthansa Technik. “This groundbreaking technology is a testament to our unwavering commitment to a greener future. Not only does it improve efficiency by reducing drag, it is also paving the way for us towards a more sustainable aviation industry. As the Asian aviation market continues its recovery, our aim is to bring this technology closer to our valued APAC customers and support them in soaring to new heights in sustainability and operational excellence.”

Philipp Bonkatz, General Manager Singapore, Malaysia & Brunei of the Lufthansa Group also remarked: “We are immensely proud of Lufthansa Technik’s pioneering achievement, marketing a significant milestone in innovation, reinforcing the strong partnership between Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa Technik. SWISS/Lufthansa Group has boldly positioned itself as a global trailblazer by becoming the first airline to embrace this revolutionary technology and starting with its Boeing 777 fleet, has set a new industry standard.”

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.