Note: this article was originally published in June, 2022
According to a report by Afrik 21, Kenya Airways (KQ) emerged winner in one of 14 categories in SkyTeam’s inaugural edition of The Sustainable Flight Challenge (TSFC) which took place between the 1st to 14th of May. The category KQ won had to do with fuel efficiency.
The TSFC competition was established out of SkyTeam’s desire to challenge the aviation industry by stimulating and facilitating innovation and change. The hope is that just as the great Melbourne to London aviation races of 1934 sparked many changes in international travel, so will TSFC. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) form the basis of the challenge, which cleverly shares the same acronym with one of the main metrics of fuel efficiency, Thrust Specific Fuel Consumption.
“The climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing our industry and there is no time to lose. As airlines, we need to reshape a more sustainable air transport future for generations to come. Together, we are committed to further reducing our carbon footprint by finding new ways to reduce emissions, make our fleets more efficient and better care for the world we connect,” said SkyTeam.
Allan Kilavuka, CEO of Kenya Airways, shared a similar sentiment, saying, “The aviation industry has a critical role in creating sustainable solutions in our operations as we have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint. The Sustainable Flight Challenge is an opportunity for our industry to make real change to sustainable aviation by harnessing competition to spur action and innovation.”
The contestants were 16 of the 18 member airlines which form the prestigious SkyTeam alliance. They were judged across 14 categories by a panel made up of seasoned, diverse and international judges from the sustainability and aviation sectors. The focal point of the challenge, as the name implies, was on how flights could be operated in a more sustainable manner.
SkyTeam hopes to expand the challenge to other important aviation-related issues, and to include non-members in subsequent years.
KQ’s Boeing 787 was set to deliver a fuel efficiency of up to 20% compared to other long haul flights, using advanced technologies which included its ultra-high bypass ratio GE turbofan engines.
The flight, which was scrutinised by International Air Transport Association (IATA), had 204 economy class passengers who were served a special organic menu sourced from local produce. Passengers were given the option to use the voluntary carbon offsetting tool to reduce its Carbon emissions. Passengers were encouraged to travel light; the heavier the aircraft, the more fuel would be consumed.
KQ also set up environmental sustainability initiatives throughout other phases of the aircraft operation including flight dispatch, maintenance and flight operations.
The winners of all 14 categories of the competition will be recognised at an award ceremony in the third week of June. KQ plans on using the award fund to support some IATA-attested sustainability initiatives.
Kenya Airways, one of Africa’s top airlines, is the only African member of SkyTeam. The airline enjoys the benefits of being a part of the alliance, which includes the attractiveness of frequent flyer programs that can be enjoyed by passengers through the entire SkyTeam network.
The airline was dubbed Africa’s Leading Airline by the World Travel Awards in 2020.