Freeman Cebu Business

Low-cost airlines commit to sustainable practices

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Low-cost airlines in the Philippines have pledged to take responsibility for environmental protection and sustainability, acknowledging that the aviation industry accounts for over two percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Speaking before other stakeholders at the 2024 Philippine Tourism and Hotel Investment Summit, AirAsia Philippine chief executive officer (CEO) Ricky Isla pointed out that technological infrastructure development, policies, regulations, investment opportunities, and technical capabilities for SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) are still in their early stages here in the Philippines.

Likewise, Cebu Pacific president and chief commercial officer Xander Lao said the airline continues to make strides across the three dimensions of sustainability—environment, social and governance (ESG), as highlighted in its recently released 2023 sustainability report, “Sustained Momentum.”

With the milestones featured in the report, CEB has solidified its position as the pacesetter in sustainable aviation in the Philippines.

“We remain committed to pursuing sustainability in aviation through initiatives that mitigate our environmental impact, enhance operational efficiency, and contribute to economic progress. Furthermore, we are dedicated to continuously integrating responsible business practices that support our growth ambitions in the future,” Lao said.

AirAsia on the other hand, believes that the Philippines, being a premier destination for nature and experiential tourism has the opportunity to grow more in terms of tourist arrivals, as the recent pandemic allowed destinations to rest, recover, and flourish.

Isla underscored that AirAsia Philippines acknowledges the importance of doubling efforts to lessen carbon emissions and fast-track the use of SAF among other measures to lessen carbon footprint.

Despite this, Isla noted that the airline is still on track with AirAsia’s Net Zero program, which aims to use SAF throughout the whole group including the Philippines, from a low of two percent or 40.62 tonnes next year (2025) to a maximum of 70percent (1.90 million tonnes) by 2050.

“Looking ahead, we remain committed to raising the sustainability bar. Among others, we will be pursuing regulatory approvals for CORSIA [carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation] offset management, regional expansion of our aviation sustainability campaign, and incorporating renewable energy at ADE’s [Asia Digital Engineering] maintenance facilities. At AirAsia Foundation, we look forward to expanding our partnerships for sustainable travel”, Isla stressed.

In the meantime, AirAsia Philippines has taken several measures to ensure its proactive actions towards sustainability such as Fleet Management or the utilization of more efficient aircraft such as the A321neo, optimization of aircraft operation or Green Flight Operations.

AirAsia has also ventured on small steps to promote sustainability in all of its flights. Isla said they encourage guests to bring reusable flasks, coffee cups, and even utensils onboard.

The AirAsia chief also noted that collaboration between airline operators and other stakeholders is a very important key, especially in creating awareness among travelers.

Meanwhile, AirAsia Philippines welcomes the Civil Aeronautics Board’s (CAB) decision to lower the Fuel Surcharge from Level 6 to a notch down at Level 5 for July.

Over the past five months, Fuel Surcharge remained at a high of Level 6. The reduction to Level 5 next month means that guests can now anticipate lower fees ranging from PHP 151.00 to P542.00 for domestic flights and between P498.03 to P3,703.11 for international flights, depending on the destination.

CEB’s environmental thrust centers on decarbonization. Its core strategy is modernizing its fleet with the advanced and fuel-efficient New Engine Option (NEO) aircraft. With 43 percent of its fleet consisting of NEO aircraft, the airline reduced its carbon emissions by 161,000 tonnes. CEB aims to have an all-NEO fleet by 2028.

The Gokongwe-led airline also saved 16 million kilograms of jet fuel by implementing flight optimization and comprehensive fuel efficiency best practices, which further reduced carbon emissions by almost 51,000 tonnes.

Apart from this, CEB’s sustainability priorities emphasized strong social responsibility. This includes investing and empowering employees, evidenced by the signing of a collective bargaining agreement with Juan Wing Association of the Philippines, the airline’s cabin crew union.

Furthermore, CEB champions diversity, equity, and inclusion through its “IncluCEB Space” program, launched in 2023 to foster acceptance and empowerment among its workforce.

In terms of governance, CEB received a 3-arrow golden recognition under the Golden Arrow Awards that recognized the airline as one of the top Philippine listed companies in corporate governance. Moreover, CEB improved its ESG performance in both its S&P Global ESG score and MSCI ESG ratings.

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