Largest airline group in Europe adopts solutions to cut carbon emissions
Employees load commodities onto a Lufthansa aircraft in Shenyang, Liaoning province, in April. (Photo by CHEN SONG/CHINA DAILY)

Lufthansa Group, the largest airline group in Europe, is making strides on its carbon neutrality goals while registering the first profitable quarterly performance since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its steps included adopting new technologies in aircraft coating to boost fuel efficiency, investing in sustainable aviation fuels and introducing carbon compensation options for customers, said Chen Qian, head of Lufthansa Group Airlines China.

“In China, customers now have the choice of what approach they want to use to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from their flight,” said Chen, who took the helm of the group’s China business in June. Lufthansa Group runs a namesake airline and other marquees like Swiss and Austrian Airlines.

Under the current plan, passengers can replace fossil aviation fuels with the sustainable aviation fuel, an energy-efficient source Lufthansa is plowing billions of dollars into. By doing so, they need to pay a surcharge for the fuel. Alternatively, travelers can support climate protection-related projects.

Lufthansa has also recently announced that it is partner and pilot customer of the world’s first production plant for power-to-liquid aviation fuels in Germany, which is more cost-effective while protecting the planet.

Under the framework, the group vowed to purchase at least 25,000 liters of the power-to-liquid fuel annually over the next five years and make it available to customers.

“We are unremitting in our targets of halving net emission of carbon dioxide by 2030 from the 2019 level, and achieve carbon neutrality in 2050,” Chen said.

Sustainability efforts come parallel with the steady business rebound after the aviation industry was besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lufthansa returned to profits in the third quarter and generated positive cash flow. It saw new bookings bounce back to 80 percent of the pre-crisis level, according to the company’s latest financial earnings report.

Chen said the encouraging results are largely attributable to people’s pent-up demands for travel as restrictions were loosened during the year and the propensity to pay a premium for first and business class seats which pushed up margins.

This is in line with a McKinsey report on aviation in the COVID-ravaged era published earlier this year, which identified leisure trips fueling the recovery first while business travel might take longer to return to the level before COVID-19 struck.

Lufthansa Airlines has also dispatched a chartered flight service for the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad since May 2020, connecting executives and technicians between Germany and China.

“In China, throughout 2021, we see robustness in necessary business travels by multinational corporation executives. And the continuous overseas expansion by Chinese enterprises is boosting flights,” she said.

The group operates 17 flights from four Chinese cities to Europe in the 2021 winter itinerary. It has adopted a suite of hygiene and social distancing measures to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.

One thing in particular is a fast-track PCR test facility for COVID-19 at Frankfurt Airport, whose results can be obtained in hours. These facilities have been thoroughly examined and approved by Chinese authorities.

“This makes us an effective provider for overseas Chinese citizens to return to their country and for necessary international travel between countries via Lufthansa Group’s vast network,” Chen added.

The company will also contribute to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, offering three chartered flights per week between Beijing and Zurich for athletes and referees participating in the Games.