Navigating sustainability in aviation – Join Base Chief Pilot JP Wilson for a journey through Alaska Airlines’ path to net zero carbon emissions by 2040

Alaska Airlines has always focused on running our business to care for all who depend on us, including our planet. As we head into Earth Month, we reflect on the impact of aviation on our planet and explore sustainable solutions for the future of air travel.  

We’ve set goals to be the #1 most fuel-efficient U.S. airline, saving fuel through innovative technology, fuel-and emissions-saving practices, reliable operations, and more fuel-efficient airplanes. Other goals include reducing waste, replacing single-use plastics where we can, and supporting healthy ecosystems. And our long-term goal is a five-part path to net zero carbon emissions by 2040. We call the work toward these goals our EverGreen journey.  

A key part of that journey is our effort to accelerate the adoption of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). SAF is a safe, certified drop-in fuel that is functionally equivalent to conventional jet fuel, meeting all jet fuel standards, while reducing carbon emissions by as much as 80% on a lifecycle basis.  

Learn more about our efforts to mature this market and make SAF more affordable from our Portland Base Chief Pilot, JP Wilson. Watch below 👇 

How are we approaching sustainability in aviation? 
Full transcript

Hello everybody, I’m JP Wilson—Alaska Airlines’ Chief Pilot based in Portland, Oregon. As a pilot, I have a front row seat to how becoming a more sustainable airline can make a positive impact on our communities, our people, and our planet.

That’s why we’ve charted an ambitious path to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. 

Over this video series, we’ll talk about our approach to accomplishing this goal through our “Four F’s” of sustainability: FLIGHTS, FLEET, FUEL and FUTURE.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

First up, we have FLIGHTS. It should come as no surprise that this is the first area where we can make significant progress, right now. By enhancing efficiency at every level, such as crafting smarter flight routes, we can reduce our overall fuel consumption. And less fuel, means fewer emissions. 

We’ve turned to FlyWays, an AI and machine learning program that gives our dispatchers the power to map new, more efficient routes—saving nearly thirteen-thousand metric tons of CO2 each year. 

That’s equivalent to a whopping 1.3 million gallons of fuel!

The second “F” in our approach to sustainability is our FLEET.

We’re investing in the latest, most fuel-efficient aircraft possible with our newest fleet of aircraft that are a staggering 22% more fuel-efficient on a seat-by-seat basis than the aircraft they replace.

The third “F” is Fuel. More specifically, Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF. It’s an alternative fuel source made from common waste, forest residue or even recaptured carbon that can cut emissions up to 80%. Eighty percent!

This transformative fuel is where we have the greatest opportunity to make the biggest impact to help reach our 2040 goals. 

Not only are we already flying multiple routes using SAF, but we’re proud to have been the first domestic carrier to do so on a regular basis — starting all the way back in 2011. The faster the aviation industry can adopt and scale SAF, the faster we can lessen the environmental impact of flying.

And lastly, but certainly not least, is our last “F”: investing in our FUTURE.
By partnering with today’s brilliant visionaries and innovators, we’re helping to develop the zero-emissions aircraft of tomorrow.

This includes our partnership with ZeroAvia, who are working on creating a hydrogen-powered aircraft to use for regional flying. 

Once again, I’m JP Wilson. And thank you for joining me to learn more about Alaska Airlines’ approach to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. 

See you next time when we talk more in depth about sustainable aviation fuel.

Welcome to Alaska Airlines.

What exactly is SAF & how is it made? 
How can SAF scale and impact future sustainability? 
Full transcript

In our last video we discussed Alaska Airlines’ “Four F’s” approach to sustainability. FLIGHTS, FLEET, FUEL, and FUTURE.

In this video, we’re going to dig deeper into our third “F”—FUEL. More specifically, Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF. 

For those just jumping in, I’m JP Wilson—Alaska Airlines’ Chief Pilot based in Portland, Oregon. 

And I’m here to proudly share Alaska’s journey to becoming a greener, more sustainable airline for all.

When we think about sustainability as an airline, Sustainable Aviation Fuel rises to the top as our greatest opportunity in the near and medium-term to reach our ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. 

So what makes SAF special compared to regular fuel?

Where traditional jetfuel is created from oil that puts new carbon into the atmosphere, SAF comes from recycled carbon. This means it takes existing trash and byproducts, even directly recaptured carbon, and gives them a second life—reducing lifecycle carbon emissions of fuel by up to 80%.

Simply put: Waste materials can be reused to help make air travel more sustainable. Crazy, I know!

Let’s talk about how Sustainable Aviation Fuel is made. It all starts with existing trash and waste materials known as “feedstocks”. These feedstocks include materials such as sugarcane crops, used cooking oil, forest residue, and recaptured carbon.

These feedstocks are collected, treated, and taken to a refinery where they are converted into fuel.

From there, this fuel can be mixed directly with traditional jet fuel in a plane. Best of all, it doesn’t require any change in existing aircraft infrastructure to use it. That’s why we call it “drop in fuel.” Because we can just drop it right in and mix it with traditional jet fuel. 

The concept of drop in fuel is huge because we can start using it immediately without having to overhaul a system that could take years to put in place.

And did you know the way it reduces carbon isn’t from how the fuel is burned? It’s actually rooted in material that the fuel is made from, the production process, and how it is delivered to airplanes. That’s why we use the term “lifecycle” carbon emissions.

SAF offers a huge opportunity, but it doesn’t come without challenges as we try to scale. 

In our next video, we’ll talk a bit more about the barriers to making SAF mainstream, and our plan to overcome those challenges. We’ll also address our broader focus on innovation and approach to navigating the future of sustainability as more innovations come to life. 

Full transcript

Making air travel more sustainable isn’t something we can solve overnight.

The actions we take today across our operation will set us up for a more sustainable future that benefits not only our employees and guests, and the communities where we live and travel, but also the planet.

So as we continue to explore our “Four F’s” of sustainability: FLIGHTS, FLEET, FUEL, and FUTURE…

Let’s take a closer look at the future of aviation sustainability.

And a quick introduction for those new to the series, I’m JP Wilson—Alaska Airlines’ Chief Pilot based in Portland, Oregon. 

To meet our ambitious goals and drive lasting change we’re focused on working with forward thinking partners, making investments in new technologies, driving supply chain innovations, and advocating for effective public policy. 

We’re partnering with e-fuel startups, tech leaders, universities and scientists to develop additional paths to Sustainable Aviation Fuel while working to increase its availability on the West Coast.

For now, SAF remains the most promising path to meaningful change. That’s why we’re focusing on advancing the marketplace. 

Our challenge today is that there is not enough SAF at a volume or price that can support the industry’s operational needs.

This has resulted in SAF accounting for less than 1% of the total aviation fuel supply.

The biggest opportunity for growing that number is growing awareness and investment. Through the help of government incentives and policy changes, SAF can become more available and less expensive, making it a mainstream solution.

We want guests to join our journey in creating collective awareness for SAF. With public support, we can move SAF from an emerging technology to another tool in our sustainability toolkit.

We’re also giving guests the option to help pay for SAF, you’ll find this option available when booking upcoming Alaska flights. It’s just another way to kickstart this important technology for our future.

Thanks for joining me on this journey as we flew through Alaska Airlines’ path to sustainability. Through our ambitious approach, we’re working tirelessly to become the first airline to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. 

Our path to net-zero is clear, but we will continue evolving and innovating with our partners as we implement and discover exciting solutions.

Take care, and for everyone at Alaska Airlines, we hope to see you soon.