Delta to invest $1 billion to become first carbon-neutral airline in the world

Feb 14, 2020

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Delta Air Lines is committing $1 billion to the fight against global warming. The airline said this morning (just in time for Valentine’s Day) it would spend $1 billion over the next ten years across a variety of programs. The company wants to be the first airline in the world to be carbon neutral. Delta is also pledging to mitigate all emissions from March of this year forward.

Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, said,

“There is no substitute for the power that travel has to connect people, which our world needs today more than ever before. As we connect customers around the globe, it is our responsibility to deliver on our promise to bring people together and ensure the utmost care for our environment. The time is now to accelerate our investments and establish an ambitious commitment that the entire Delta team will deliver.”

Related: What your favorite airlines and hotels are doing to fight climate change

The news comes the same day Delta plans to distribute $1.6 billion in profit-sharing to employees. Delta first revealed the profit-sharing amount in January.

New Delta Airbus A321 aircraft delivery flight. (Image courtesy Delta Air Lines)
A new Delta Airbus A321on its delivery flight. (Image courtesy Delta Air Lines)

Delta is spreading the money across multiple programs, part of an effort to tackle what Bastian acknowledged is a tough problem for an airline to solve. 

“There’s no challenge we face that is in greater need of innovation than environmental sustainability, and we know there is no single solution,” Bastian said in a statement. “We are digging deep into the issues, examining every corner of our business, engaging experts, building coalitions, fostering partnerships and driving innovation. We are on a journey, and though we don’t have all the answers today, we know that our scale, along with investments of time, talent and resources will bring meaningful impact to the planet and ensure the sustainability of our business for decades to come.”

As part of a long-term effort to address environmental concerns, Delta said it would invest time and money into:

  • Carbon reduction including fleet renewals, weight reductions and increased use of sustainable fuels
  • Investing in carbon-removal initiatives, such as tree planting, and investments in emerging carbon capture technologies
  • Partnering with Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels and Gevo on recycled jet fuel
  • Reducing plastic usage and increasing recycling and composting
  • Pushing for modernization of air traffic control, which Delta believes would reduce delays and fuel consumption

Delta also said it will invest more than $100,000 in The International Small Group & Tree Planting Program (TIST), a program that supports subsistence farmers in countries like Kenya and Uganda to reverse the effects of deforestation, drought and famine through tree planting and conservation farming.

Related: Delta CEO talks exoskeletons, ‘binge buttons’ and more at CES 2020

Delta also recently introduced 84 new aircraft like the state-of-the-art A220, which Delta claims are 25% more fuel-efficient.

Delta had previously said it is aiming to reduce its emissions by 50% by 2050.

The airline says it has reduced jet fuel consumption through fleet renewal and fuel-efficiency initiatives that started in 2005, an effort which Delta calculates has reduced emissions by 11%. Further, Delta claims it is the only airline to voluntarily cap emissions at 2012 levels.

It was back in 2007 that Delta became the first U.S. airline to enable customers to offset the carbon emissions generated through travel, on or through the Fly Delta app.

Delta website explaining how to offset your flight. (Image courtesy Delta Air Lines)
Delta’s website explains how to offset the carbon emissions of your flight. (Image courtesy Delta Air Lines)


Delta said its sustainability efforts extend into the cabin as well: The airline recycles 1,000 tons of waste a year and said it has dramatically reduced single-use plastics on planes and in lounges. Delta also pointed to the planes themselves, saying it has worked to make its current aircraft lighter. That effort includes installing carbon brakes on all its planes, reducing weight by about 700 pounds per plane, according to the company.

Delta is working with Air BP to supply biofuels for 20 delivery flights of the Airbus A321 aircraft from the Airbus final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama.

And Delta points out it is continuing a commitment to local communities in markets it serves (and around the world) by funding charities and volunteer organizations. The company said this year it will give all its employees the opportunity to take a paid day off work to volunteer for local charities with a focus this year on environmental organizations.

Featured image courtesy Delta Air Lines.

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