Environmental Responsibility

Austrian Airlines’ Responsibility

Austrian Airlines is Austria’s largest airline and operates a worldwide route network that focuses on Central and Eastern Europe. Thanks to its favorable geographic location in the heart of Europe, its home base in Vienna is an ideal hub between East and West. Austrian Airlines is part of the Lufthansa Group, the largest airline group in Europe, as well as a member of the Star Alliance, the first global alliance of international airlines

Aviation is a major contributor to global connectivity, trade, prosperity and cultural exchange. Yet, it also impacts our environment. As a company, we aim to lead the way, and therefore see the responsible use of natural resources as an integral part of our corporate culture. That’s why a transparent communication of our efforts is important to us. In the following, you will learn more about the international aviation goals as well as the specific climate-related goals of Austrian Airlines. Followed by a fact check on the impact of aviation on the environment, we offer you an overview of our strategy for sustainability as well as for the reduction of CO2, noise and waste.

Fact Check

Demand for air travel is growing. In 2019, 4.5 billion scheduled passengers were transported, 60% more than in 2010. Due to the pandemic, aviation experienced an unprecedented drop in demand with a global passenger decline of -86 % in the first half of 2021. Nevertheless, the aviation organization IATA (International Air Transport Association) expects the industry to recover by 2023 at the latest. For the period after the pandemic, it forecasts global passenger growth of 3.2 % per year.

The growth of aviation has a positive impact on the world’s increasing prosperity, global connectivity, and international trade. Flying connects people and cultures like no other form of transportation. It brings families together and is often the only means of transportation. In addition, aviation offers unmatched safety and flexibility.

Carbon Fact Check

At the same time, aviation, just like other modes of transport, has undesirable effects on the climate and the environment. With 0.91 Mt CO2 emissions in 2019, the contribution of global aviation to man-made climate change is eminent. For Austrian Airlines, this translates into a responsibility to limit the environmental impact of its business activities to an unavoidable level – in the air and on the ground. Nevertheless, emissions are comparatively lower than one might think.

According to the International Energy Agency, all aircraft combined produced about 2.7% of global man-made CO2 emissions in 2019. Intra-European aviation produces a share of European CO2 emissions of 0.52%. Thus, if all civil aviation flights in Europe were to cease on a certain date, CO2 emissions in Europe would be reduced by only 0.52 %. The share of Austrian aviation in Austria’s CO2 emissions is 0.16 %.

Aviation’s Climate Targets

IATA targets: As early as 2009, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, air navigation service providers and airports agreed on a global climate protection strategy within the framework of IATA (International Air Transport Association). This envisages an annual increase in fuel efficiency of 1.5 % in addition to halving net CO2 emissions by 2050 and CO2-neutral growth from 2020 by means of the CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) CO2 compensation program.

European Union targets: The European Union is also committed to climate neutrality. Under the “Green Deal,” net emissions of greenhouse gases are to be reduced to zero. Europe is aspiring to be the first continent to become climate neutral. The CO2 targets envisage a reduction of 55 % by 2030 compared with 1990. 

Destination 2050: In addition to the EU targets, five European air transport organizations have also developed a joint industry roadmap (“Destination 2050”) to decarbonize European aviation. They set the goal of reducing net CO2 emissions of all flights from and within the EU to zero by 2050. With the successful implementation of Destination 2050, the net emission levels in 2030 will be 13 Mt CO2, 55 % below the levels achieved in 1990. In doing so, the measures developed in Destination 2050 contribute to the implementation of the European Green Deal.

ICAO noise targets: Implementation of the Balanced Approach and application of noise-reducing measures as well as development of certification and approval standards with stricter limits for newer aircraft generations.

Austrian Airlines’ Environmental Targets

  • Reduction of CO2 emissions of 33 % by 2030
  • -1.05 kg of average CO2 emissions per 100 passenger-kilometers of the Austrian fleet
  • Increase in fuel efficiency by 1.5 % per year
  • Blending of 2% alternative fuels on short- and medium-haul routes
  • No domestic flights on routes with rail connections of less than 3 hours to Vienna Airport
  • Noise reduction of 60 % by 2030

Austrian Airlines Four-Pillar Sustainability Strategy

To achieve these goals, we are consistently pursuing a four-pillar strategy based on IATA’s four-pillar model for climate protection. It comprises technological, operational measures and improved infrastructure, as well as complementary economic instruments:

Technological Progress

Aircraft that consume less fuel also emit less CO2. Every ton of kerosene saved reduces the burden on the environment by around 3.15 metric tons of CO2. New-generation aircraft consume up to 25 % less kerosene and therefore emit correspondingly less CO2. In addition, they are also up to 60% quieter than their predecessors. The biggest lever for reducing CO2 emissions is therefore the use of new aircraft and the modernization of existing fleets. Austrian Airlines is continuously investing in its fleet renewal. For example, the replacement of 21 Fokker aircraft with 17 Embraer aircraft in 2017 resulted in annual savings of almost 10,000 tons of kerosene

Operational Measures

As 99 % of Austrian Airlines’ energy expenditure is incurred in flight operations, we are working to continuously reduce aircraft fuel consumption. A dedicated team was established back in 2013 to identify and implement fuel efficiency projects. This involves testing and developing new departure and approach procedures, reducing aircraft weight, and working on shortened taxiing and engine runtimes. The optimized processes are based on analyses and evaluations of a wide range of flight data. For example, we are now able to use the latest flight management systems to evaluate weather data in real time and make better use of high-altitude winds, or to optimize the aircraft’s aerodynamics by systematically loading it. This enables us to reduce CO2 emissions.

Efficient Infrastructure

Austrian Airlines is actively advocating for the merger of European air traffic control. This environmental project would be a “Schengen” in the air and would have great potential for reducing emissions: Its implementation would save up to 10 million tons of CO₂ per year in Europe – equivalent to the emissions of the entire Austrian Airlines fleet in 5 years. Optimal use of airspace through the Single European Sky project has been a long-time goal of the European Commission. Currently, there are still 61 air traffic centers in 28 national systems. As a result, aircraft can rarely choose the optimal flight path, have to fly detours and accordingly emit more CO2. Switching to SES could save up to 10% fuel and consequently CO2 each year.

Economic Tools

Austrian Airlines has been participating in the European emissions trading system since 2012 and welcomes the fact that in 2016 a consensual decision was reached by states at UN level for a global system CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). This is intended to offset CO2 emissions in international aviation through CO2 savings in climate protection projects from 2021. A more detailed overview of the taxes and charges that Austrian Airlines already pays today and will also pay in the future can be found further down on this website.

Environmental Initiatives

Intermodality – AIRail

In cooperation with ÖBB, Austrian Airlines transferred the Vienna Airport-Linz route to rail as part of the “AIRail” project as early as December 2014. In 2017, the cooperation was extended to the Vienna Airport-Salzburg route and in 2019 the 100,000th visitor was already welcomed on this route. The flight connection between Salzburg and Vienna was finally discontinued in 2020 and completely transferred to rail. Austrian Airlines additionally extended the cooperation to the Vienna Airport – Graz route in 2021. This cooperation creates an alternative to air travel for passengers to get to Vienna Airport. We are continuously working on enhancing the travel comfort of multimodal travel further and further, thus enabling a seamless journey.

Fleet Renewal

The biggest lever for reducing CO2 emissions is the use of new aircraft. That is why we are continually investing in the modernization of our fleet. Aircraft that consume less fuel emit less CO2 and are also quieter. Every ton of kerosene saved reduces the burden on the environment by around 3.15 metric tons of CO2. New-generation aircraft consume up to 25 % less kerosene and therefore also emit 25 % less CO2. In addition, they are also up to 60% quieter than their predecessors.

Operational & Fuel Efficiency

In 2020, Austrian Airlines and the entire Lufthansa Group pursued 34 fuel-saving projects across the Group, including in the areas of weight reduction, flight route optimization and technical developments. Currently, four additional projects are underway to increase efficiency at Austrian Airlines. These operational measures have made it possible to sustainably avoid more than 52,600 tons of CO₂ emissions and the consumption of 16,700 tons of kerosene in addition to the reductions already achieved. In comparison, the amount of kerosene and thus CO2 saved corresponds to the consumption of approximately 196 round-trip flights on the Munich-New York route with an Airbus A350-900.

Energy Audit & Environmental Management System

In 2019, Austrian Airlines carried out its second energy audit since 2015, as required by the Federal Energy Efficiency Act. The result of this audit is also the definition of measures that sustainably reduce energy consumption.

Plans are in place to implement an environmental / energy management system.

Recycling and Waste Management

“Fly Greener” is an initiative that was launched at Lufthansa in 2014 and extended to Austrian Airlines in 2017. Flight attendants pursue the goal of reducing waste and environmental pollution and optimizing the corresponding processes on board of the aircraft. Each Lufthansa Group airline develops its own ideas and concepts in this regard. As early as 18 years ago, Austrian Airlines started to separate a wide variety of materials on board and subsequently recycling them. This applies to PET bottles, glass bottles, Tetrapak, cans, as well as waste paper and newspapers. Since the end of 2018, all disposable plastic items have also been collected separately from residual waste and are to be fed into OMV’s ReOil process.

ReOil – Plastics Recycling

Since October 2018, we have already been operating the ReOil project in cooperation with OMV with the purpose of recycling plastic cups and other plastic waste on board. Flight attendants collect used plastic cups and other disposable plastic items from passengers separately from residual waste. These are cleaned and shredded by a waste management company and then delivered to the ReOil® pilot plant at the Schwechat refinery, which further processes the plastic items using the globally patented “Made in Austria” technology. Flughafen Wien AG is also an important logistical partner in this procedure. Thus, the plastics extracted from crude oils are reprocessed back into oil using a thermolysis process.

Each year, Austrian flight attendants collect 10.4 million (October 2018 – October 2019) used plastic cups from passengers separately from residual waste, as well as all other single-use plastic items on board. The joint activity is a clear signal of how important it is to us to conserve our resources. With this collection campaign, we are supporting a recycling economy that conserves resources. Over 100 tons of residual waste are saved each year. Read more here.

Reduce Food Waste by 50%

Since March 2020, Austrian Airlines has been offering its passengers a new catering concept on board European flights, which combines culinary origins with the quality standards of our brand in a diverse range of products. From 2022, our customers will be able to view the menu before departure and place an advance order during the booking process. In addition to providing a further opportunity for individualization in the travel chain, we aim to reduce food waste by 50% with this project in line with a “zero waste” policy.

Noise Abatement 

The development of noise pollution is one of the longest recorded environmental conditions in Austria. Surveys on noise pollution sources show that noise pollution from airplanes accounts for a relatively small share of the total, 4 %, which can be compared with railroads. In contrast, the main sources are construction sites, neighborhood noise, cars, trucks, and buses. Through Austrian Airlines’ ongoing fleet renewal, which involves replacing older aircraft with more efficient and quieter aircraft, we are helping to keep noise pollution as low as possible and reduce it further. In the process, we are not only sorting out older aircraft, but also replacing smaller models, enabling us to transport the same number of passengers with fewer connections and the associated take-offs and landings.

Since 2005, Austrian Airlines has been involved in the internationally renowned mediation process (Dialog Forum) at Vienna Airport and has actively endeavored to work together with the neighboring communities and Vienna Airport to find joint solutions that show consideration for each other and further reduce our noise emissions. In the airport region, significant contributions have been made to the successful implementation of passive noise abatement measures. More efficient approach routes, such as the Curved Approach, reduce noise levels, while night flight regulations minimize noise pollution at night.

Technical measures are also being implemented: For example, vortex generators are being installed on all Airbus 319, 320 and 321 aircraft to reduce noise on approach. These reduce noise by 4 dB(A) at 17 km from the landing point and up to 10 dB(A) at 50 km. More information can be found on the Environmental Fund website. Winglets on the Boeing 767 fleet reduce noise by 6.5 % and fuel and CO2 consumption by 5 %. Special approach and departure procedures such as the instrument-assisted Curved Approach (mediation contract), the Continuous Decent Approach or Continuous Climb Operations further reduce the noise impact on residents around the airport

Audio sample A320 without vortex generator on approach to Frankfurt Airport at the measuring point Offenbach Lauterborn.
Audio sample A320 with a vortex generator on approach to Frankfurt Airport at the measuring point Offenbach Lauterborn.

What Else is on Our Minds?

Alternative Fuels – Sustainable Aviation Fuels

The amount of energy that can be extracted from one kilogram of kerosene is roughly equivalent to a 77-kilogram battery of the latest ion technology. In other words, the top batteries available today would have to be 77 times more powerful to equal kerosene to get an airplane in the air given the same weight. Promising new alternative technologies to fly CO2-neutral in the future will take many more years of development. In the medium term, only hybrid versions of small two-engine aircraft are conceivable. Thus, aviation will continue to rely on liquid fuel.

One of the most important building blocks on the way to CO2 neutral flying are the so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). These regenerative fuels have a potential to reduce emissions by 80% compared to conventional fuels. Research into this has been supported by the aviation industry for years. A distinction is made between two types:


Advanced biofuels are based on the use of biomass such as waste, energy crops or algae, which do not compete with food production. Studies conducted by the DLR (German Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) have shown that these fuels can reduce CO2 emissions by over 80 %. However, market development of waste-based and advanced biofuels has not been able to catch up quickly enough with aviation needs: In 2018, global biofuel production for aviation represented less than 0.1% of total kerosene consumption. In addition, prices for biokerosene are approximately three to four times higher than market prices for conventional kerosene. Currently, the only biokerosene available on the global SAF market is predominantly derived from waste biomass. These will realistically be the only SAFs available on the market in the next few years, and will also serve to meet the upcoming blending quotas in the long term.

Synthetic fuels

Synthetic fuels are produced using the so-called “power to liquid” process. These fuels are produced from renewable electricity, water and CO2. During production, CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere (or directly from an incinerator) and combined with electrolysis hydrogen from regenerative electricity to form a synthetic intermediate product (e.g. kerosenes or alcohols), which is then processed into kerosene. The CO2 released during flying can be recycled in the production of the fuel, making the whole process largely CO2-neutral. Synthetic fuels are currently still at the research stage and are only produced on a demonstration scale – they are therefore up to eight times more expensive than fossil kerosene. The first large-scale plants (e.g. in Germany) are expected to open as early as 2022, promising the availability of synthetic fuel in significantly larger quantities and thus also significantly lower production costs.

Your Individual Contribution

Offsetting of CO2 Emissions

Every form of energy use from fossil fuels, such as electricity, heating, hot water consumption, and mobility, produces CO2. These CO2 emissions cannot be entirely prevented from occurring. However  the emissions that are generated can be saved elsewhere. By supporting climate protection projects, you can reduce CO2 emissions by the amount of emissions produced. This process is known as CO2 offsetting. The CO2 factors required for the calculation are collected and regularly updated in Austria by the Federal Environment Agency and Kommunalkredit Public Consulting (Climate Austria). 

Austrian Airlines passengers have already had the option of offsetting their CO2 emissions since 2008. The calculation method takes into account the respective destination the aircraft type, as well as load factor data from the past. Together with our partner “Climate-Austria”, international as well as national projects are supported. Since 2008, EUR 1.5 million have thus been invested in 100,000 tons of CO2 compensation.  Through this, for example, wind farms, small hydropower plants and biomass plants have been built. Since April 2021, offsetting can be carried out via the new “Compensaid” platform. Passengers can now additionally select the use of alternative fuels in the booking process.

Transparent insights on the topic of the environment and flying are offered on this website. For more information on the projects being supported, visit Compensaid and Climate Austria.

Further Environmental Agenda from 2021

Austrian Airlines implements energy efficiency measures on an ongoing basis with a dedicated Operation Efficiency staff unit. Here are a few examples:

ProjectImplementation PeriodPotential Savings (GWh/a)
Single Engine TaxiQ3 20213,0
Alternate FuelQ2 20214,9
Flight Profile OptimizerQ4 202119,0
Flight Ops Analyzer20228,3

Single Engine Taxi

Here, tests are being conducted on taxiing in to a parking position after a landing or out to a takeoff position with only one engine running. After landing or before takeoff, one engine is completely shut down and the auxiliary power unit is not operated in parallel either. Thereby, the runtime of the engines can be reduced. As a result, fuel consumption and the associated pollutant emissions can be reduced. The APU (Auxillary Power Unit) or auxiliary power unit is a type of engine that is started before shutting down an engine in order to maintain full functionality of the firefighting equipment on the running engine. This requires rewiring of the firefighting equipment. Thus, if parallel operation of the normal engine and auxiliary power unit can be avoided, four minutes of parallel operation per flight is enough to save a full 504 metric tons of fuel per year on the Airbus fleet (comparison year: 2019).

Alternate Fuel

Austrian Airlines has found that a reduction in alternate fuel can be achieved. Alternate fuel is defined as fuel that is necessary to get from the intended destination to the intended alternate airport in case of emergency. For the approach to Vienna, due to the features of Vienna Airport, Alternate Airport is no longer necessary and we are able to reduce the amount of Alternate Fuel in the fuel tank. The flight route to Bratislava (LZIB), which is the common standard for flights arriving in Vienna to divert to the alternate airport, could be additionally shortened by 85NM (nautical miles).

Flight Profile Optimizer

The introduction of the Flight Profile Optimizer enables better planning of the flight path by adjusting speed and altitude, among other things. Significantly increased savings effects due to in-flight connectivity are also expected, for instance, from the introduction of the new Electronic Flight Bag (iOS variant). Currently, the extension to the Airbus fleet is still in the approval process. The software has already been implemented on the Embraer fleet and on the Boeing long-haul route.

Flight Ops Analyzer

Direct access to flight data enables better and more effective evaluations and analyses. The information generated during flight operations is processed automatically and serves as the basis for analyses and evaluations of flight routes. This is intended to increase the effectiveness of flight operations and consequently save fuel, for example by using shortcuts, different flight altitudes or speeds.

Weight Reductions

In general terms, a reduction in weight means a reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. A wide variety of projects are being pursued, such as weight reduction by replacing carpets, life jackets or newspapers. A weight reduction of 1 kg saves around 11.21 tons of fuel and 35.3 tons of CO2 on the Austrian fleet in a production year like 2019.


Since 2019, we as Austrian Airlines have been sourcing 100% green electricity at all our sites in Austria.

Furthermore, all business trips of our employees are compensated, so that we have 100% CO2 neutral business travel.

The Cost of Economic Instruments

Since January 1, 2012, aviation has been the only mode of transport to be included in European emissions trading (EU-ETS). This means that since that date, airlines, including Austrian Airlines, have been paying for CO2 emissions. For Austrian Airlines, these payments amount to tens of millions of euros per year. In the future, the allocated certificates will be further reduced and the price increased, which will significantly increase costs.

From 2021, CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) will be added as another international CO2 scheme. In CORSIA, all airlines worldwide must pay for their growth-based CO2 emissions. This is a CO2 compensation system. This means that the money airlines pay for their emissions is invested directly in climate projects, thus offsetting the CO2 emissions. By 2035, 2.5 billion tons of CO2 are thus to be offset by investing around USD 40 billion in environmental projects. This will make aviation CO2-neutral as of 2020!

Furthermore, a mandate for mandatory refueling of an increasing percentage of SAF will be introduced starting in 2025. Again, at current market prices, this creates a significant cost burden. In most countries, airlines will have to pay further levies in the environmental field.

In total, this means that the airline industry’s levies are expected to increase by 904 % in 2050 compared to the levies in 2019.

De-facto, thus, airlines already pay a multitude as levies under the title of environment and thus also for their CO2 emissions. However, these funds are not yet invested in environmental projects in all countries. With the amount of “eco-taxes” paid so far in Europe, the annual CO2 emissions of the LHG could be compensated about 9 times.

Corporate Key Figures

For maximum transparency, it is important to us that you can also find out about our corporate and environmental key figures. Therefore, we provide you with our data below. As soon as the reliability of the current figures returns to pre-pandemic levels, we will update them as a matter of course.

Further Information