The global and necessary debate about climate change, global warming, and CO2 reduction is currently dominating the headlines. Subsequently, the relevance of sustainability KPIs for airlines is steadily increasing.

And I would go even further and say that sustainability in all of its forms — fuel/CO2 reduction, compensation possibilities, weight reduction, etc. — will become a substantial competitive advantage for airlines.

Not represented in operations

At the moment, many airlines haven’t realized (or do not want to?) the significant impact of this change.

Of course, some of them have started to implement measures (e. g. compensate your flight, sustainability websites, operational measures).

From my perspective, this has the taste of some quick pills to cure the most substantial pain. However, I don’t have the impression that airlines are following a comprehensive approach to tackle that challenge.

An indication that this topic hasn’t arrived in day-to-day operations at airlines is the lack of sustainability KPIs — which are measured daily or in real-time.

When talking to airline representatives, sustainability KPIs seems to be relevant when it comes to annual reports. However, real-time monitoring isn’t a topic for most of the airlines.

Daily operations still is determined by punctuality, stability, regularity.

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And this, of course, makes sense at first glance. You wouldn’t cancel a particular flight just because of its CO2 balance (at least not yet). And passengers are (still) more interested in arriving on-time than arriving with a perfect CO2 balance.

What are the essential sustainability KPIs?

sustainability kpi airlines
Photo by louis magnotti on Unsplash

But there are many KPIs which are worth to be monitored daily or in real-time:

  • How much fuel has been burned today?
  • How much CO2 has been generated today?
  • What’s the fuel burned per pax ratio?
  • What’s the CO2 per pax ratio?
  • Which are the most economical routes in terms of CO2 today?
  • Which are the worst routes?
  • Which’s the most economical aircraft today?

As always, the KPIs itself won’t improve the situation — but you know the saying, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t control it.”

Why are sustainability KPIs that important?

That’s why I’m firmly convinced that it is inevitable to establish these KPIs and integrate it into your daily/real-time monitoring.

And I’m pretty sure, that once established the ball of initiatives based on it starts rolling immediately.

  • You will identify weaknesses (why are certain flights performing that bad?) and be able to set up countermeasures
  • You will be able to improve your customer communication due to the availability of more, more accurate and more up-to-date information
  • You will promote the topic of sustainability internally and create thought-provoking impulses
  • You will create a transparency about CO2 across routes and aircraft
  • You will form a basis for further analytics on CO2 and fuel

And each of these points is super-necessary in terms of sustainability and will become increasingly important over the next years.

So from my point of view, the question is not “should I set up sustainability KPIs daily/ in real-time.” The question has to be “how fast can I set up the KPIs” to push the topic of sustainability and to outnumber my competition.


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Benjamin is an aviation-enthusiast, a content-maniac, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions with the aim to change the aviation industry. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry, and working with renowned airlines such as Lufthansa, Emirates, Air India, Aegean Airlines, Saudia Airlines, S7, Icelandair and many others.