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Alaska Airlines Outlines Path to Net Zero by 2040

In one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize, Alaska has set forth its plan to greatly reduce its carbon, waste and water impacts by 2025; and eliminate its carbon emissions altogether by 2040.

Today, Alaska Airlines outlined its commitment and roadmap to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 — as well as goals to greatly reduce its carbon, waste and water impacts by 2025.

Alaska and its regional subsidiary, Horizon Air, have identified the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as the airlines’ most impactful area for climate action.

“At Alaska Airlines, we know that travel can make a big difference in people’s lives,” said Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci. “Air travel connects us to our friends and families, helps us understand one another, and helps communities across the globe grow and thrive. But we know that to live our purpose, creating an airline people love, we must operate every day in a way that cares for both people and our planet. That’s why we’ve set out on this bold path to reduce our climate impact near and long term.”

Alaska’s roadmap to 2040 includes five focus areas to reach net-zero emissions:

  • Driving Internal Organizational Alignment and Better Cross-Functional Collaboration

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    Fleet renewal — with a recent Boeing 737 MAX order, Alaska’s newest aircraft have 22 percent better fuel-efficiency on a seat-by-seat basis than the aircraft they replace.

  • Operational efficiency — improving flight efficiency is an industry-wide priority. Alaska says it will continue to standardize best practices, and expand use of first-of-its-kind artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to optimize routes. And as part of its near-term goals, the airline has committed to cut emissions from its ground services equipment by 2025 through the purchase and use of electric ground equipment and other renewables.

  • Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) — Long-term plans for reaching net-zero emissions include expanding the market for SAF.

  • Novel propulsion — Alaska is also exploring and advancing novel propulsion approaches that support electrification technology for regional flying that are either not dependent on fossil fuels, or more efficient than current methods.

  • Credible, high-quality, carbon-offsetting technology — because aviation is one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize, Alaska will also work with science and technical advisory Carbon Direct to identify and vet credible, high- quality, carbon-offsetting technologies to close any remaining gaps on its path to net zero.

“After a difficult year, this is an exciting time for our company — as we return to growth while embedding sustainability even deeper in our culture, set bold goals, and collaborate with innovative partners to keep our company, our communities, and our environment strong and healthy for the long term,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ VP of public affairs and sustainability. “The pandemic sharpened the clarity of our purpose and led us to a stronger path forward. But we also know we can’t do this alone and that we must work together with government, manufacturers, innovators and other industry partners to decarbonize aviation.”

Joining the Amazon Climate Pledge

Along with its 2040 net-zero strategy, Alaska Airlines has also signed onto Amazon’s Climate Pledge — a multisector commitment to reaching net zero 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.

The airline has also set five-year goals to reduce waste through more sustainable packaging, restarting its industry-leading inflight recycling post-COVID, and reminding employees and passengers to #FillBeforeYouFly; while offsetting 100 percent of its operational water use through investments in high-quality habitat projects by 2025.

Engaging 22K employees to help reduce climate impacts, increase DEI

This year, Alaska has included a carbon-emissions target in the incentive pay program for all 22,000 employees. And the airline joins companies including Chipotle and Nike in linking long-term executive compensation to KPIs around diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We know that setting ambitious goals, measuring our progress — and then holding ourselves accountable — is the key to real progress,” Birkett Rakow said.

Learn more about Alaska's new climate commitments here.