Towards a more sustainable aviation industry

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Youssef Zad

Passenger aviation could be extended to smaller regions than before on market-based terms and with lower emissions by using new innovative technologies. Smaller, low-emission aircraft with lower operating costs provided by startups such as Electra and using Lygg’s platform and business model to optimize air traffic are the way to go. These innovations promise not only increased accessibility to previously underserved areas but also more sustainable aviation.

Lygg’s platform matches the right-sized aircraft to demand in smaller airports. Moreover, Lygg collaborates with businesses relying on regular corporate travel to open new flight routes. Once sufficient flight capacity is sold to corporate customers, the route becomes economically viable for consumers as well. By offering a properly sized aircraft and securing demand from recurring business trips, flights can be conducted profitably from more remote regions. This not only boosts commuter traffic but also contributes to economic growth.

Targeting lower emissions

According to the International Energy Agency, air traffic currently constitutes 2 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions. However, the share is expected to rise as the broader energy sector cuts its emissions. In general, the aviation industry is a tough sector to decarbonize, but it must be done nonetheless if we want to reach an emission-free society. Progress has already been made in mitigating emissions, with Neste at the forefront, producing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) capable of reducing flight emissions by up to 80 percent. However, the current production of SAFs will not be enough to meet the increasing demand, underscoring the imperative for other innovations.

The aviation industry needs electric and hybrid airplanes to cut its emissions. Startups such as Heart Aerospace and Electra are developing electric and hybrid airplanes for short distances of 400-800 kilometers. In the near future, electric and hybrid planes won’t be able to handle long-haul flights with large numbers of passengers. However, the majority of short-haul flights could be flown with electric propulsion, in which case the amount of sustainable aviation fuels can help to cut emissions from longer routes. Even with hybrid airplanes, when the fuel consumption is much lower, the amount of sustainable aviation fuel will last for longer and serve a larger number of flights.

Unprofitable regional flights are supported with tax money

Based on a memo from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the state-supported regional flights with approximately 42 million euros in 2021-2022. According to the ministry, the flight occupancy rates have been quite low, which is why the amount of support per passenger has been rather large.

In the long run, electric airplanes are a cheaper option than current jet airplanes to operate, taking maintenance and fuel costs into account. When the lower operating costs of electric air traffic are combined with Lygg’s optimized operating model, it is possible to cut emissions significantly and at the same time open economically profitable routes between smaller airports and increase the accessibility of remote areas.

The Finnish government is looking for ways to balance its budget deficit so making regional air traffic economically sustainable for private companies could be a way to save government money. Embracing electronic equipment and leveraging traffic optimization through platform technology emerges as a potential solution to achieving this goal.