Delta Airlines recently announced plans for the Delta Sustainable Skies Lab to research sustainable aviation solutions. The lab is designed to study and test ways to make flying — and the business of flying — cleaner and greener. With the airline industry responsible for as much as 3% of global carbon emissions and nearly 12% of all transportation emissions, the company is taking the initiative to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 by eliminating its planes’ climate impact and embedding sustainability in every part of the company.
Delta’s new Sustainable Skies Lab will focus on the airline’s two pillars of sustainability. The first is to have zero net emissions from flying, and the second is to innovate sustainable solutions across all facets of the Atlanta-based airline.
Expect internal sustainability culture across all divisions of Delta, engagement and ideas research as well as significant emissions testing. According to the company, the new lab will dig into sustainable travel practices, better flying efficiency for every airplane in its fleet, and clean fuel.
“Delta Sustainable Skies Lab is about pairing the operational expertise of our teams with innovators to inspire new ideas and spur industry advancement,” said Pam Fletcher, Delta’s chief sustainability officer. “It’s a place to showcase advancements and a movement to galvanize everyone with a stake in creating the more sustainable future of flight.”
Delta also wants to work with as many manufacturers and fellow aviation industry companies to soar toward a more sustainable future for flight. So far, the firm has partnered with Airbus and Joby Aviation. There’s also a new research collaboration with The Massachusetts Institute of Technology on how contrails may trap heat in the atmosphere.
“With aviation being a hard-to-decarbonize industry, none of us can do this alone,” Fletcher continued. “We’re rolling out the welcome mat for disruptors of choice to take advantage of Delta’s global resources to accelerate our path to decarbonization and a fully sustainable travel experience.”
Delta is leading the way as one of the first major airlines to set a carbon neutrality goal. In 2020, the company announced a $1 billion investment toward clean air technologies, reduced waste, and net-zero carbon emissions.
“This work is imperative for our planet and our business. We’ve seen how critical human connection is to thrive — and how travel is the great enabler,” Fletcher said. “As we make progress toward our sustainability goals, we want to make sure our customers will feel as good about flying as they do about the connections made with the people and places we take them to.”
Delta’s sustainability overhaul is noticeable down to the smallest details when flying. The company says it has reduced the use of plastics onboard and is working only with vendors who also have net-zero emissions goals. In airports, the airline is switching all ground operations to electric-powered vehicles.
“We’ve already achieved significant results, like reducing single-use onboard plastics by nearly 5 million pounds annually and saving 10 million gallons of fuel last year thanks to the work of Delta’s Carbon Council,” Fletcher said. “Our foundation is strong. Now we accelerate.”