Emirates Airline’s Sustainability in Airport Operations

Topic: Strategic Management
Words: 14074 Pages: 33


The management of Emirates Airline appreciates the need to ensure that its operations are environmentally sustainable. In this paper, the focus was to explore specific strategies that this company is using in its airport operations to achieve sustainability. The researcher collected data from primary and secondary data to achieve the aim of the study. Findings revealed that Emirates Airline has remained committed to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and managing the production of wastes in its operations. On the ground, it has embraced the use of renewable energy in the offices as well as using fuel-efficient bulbs to reduce the consumption of power. It is also using new technologies to wash its large fleet of aircraft, including A380s, without water. When in the air, the firm has carefully planned inflight rerouting on long‑haul flights to reduce the consumption of energy. It has been supporting the use of biofuel and other clean energy to help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling (3-Rs) has also been embraced as a way of reducing costs and lowering carbon emissions. These operational strategies have significantly reduced the impact of this firm’s activities on the environment.


Background of the Study

The aviation industry has been identified as one of the leading producers of greenhouse gasses on a global scale. Most of these emissions come directly from the operational activities of the airlines. According to Walls and Wittmer (2022), most of the carbon emissions come from jet engines when they are in operation. With a maximum fuel capacity of 84,535 gallons (320,000 liters), consumed at a rate of 10 g/nm, it is apparent that Airbus A380 emits a staggering amount of carbon dioxide every time it is in the air (Walker et al., 2020). On the ground, operation activities such as washing the planes using traditional methods, which require large amounts of water, pose further sustainability challenges. In the offices and at the warehouse, electricity is needed to support the overall operational activities. Although there is an effort by jet engine manufacturers to have more fuel-efficient engines, individual airlines still have a major responsibility to streamline their operations and ensure that they embrace environmental sustainability.

As the industry continues to achieve growth, some concerns and challenges are emerging, which cannot be ignored by the stakeholders in this industry. A report by Air Transport Action Grou (2022) shows that the emission of greenhouse gases by the aviation industry has been increasing considerably over the years. A Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet5, Airbus A3807, and Boeing 737-886 emit 100-150g of carbon dioxide per mile per passenger (Walls and Wittmer, 2022). It means that an Airbus A3807 traveling the longest route in the world, from Singapore to New York, will emit 1,430 kilograms per person, which translates to over 1.2 million kilograms of carbon dioxide. The number of these large jets in the air is increasing, which means that the level of pollution is on the rise. Figure 1.1 below shows the magnitude of carbon dioxide emission by Airbus A3807 when taking off.

Emissions from a jumbo jet
Figure 1.1. Emissions from a jumbo jet (Ho, 2020, para. 2).

The aviation sector players are aware of this problem and remain committed to addressing it. One of the leading companies in air travel is Emirates Airlines. Walker et al. (2020) note that Emirates Airlines is one of the leading airlines in the global market. The company has achieved massive growth over the years, especially as Dubai Airport grew to become the region’s leading hub in air transport. The management of the company understands that as it increases the number of flight hours through increased routes and the number of planes, the amount of gases that it produces is also increasing.

Sustainability in airport operations is currently one of the leading concerns for this firm and many other companies in the aviation industry. In this paper, the goal of the researcher is to determine the framework and strategies that Emirates Airlines is applying to address environmental sustainability concerns. The company has reported that it is embracing operational changes to enhance efficiency in operations and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases both at the airport and when a plane is in the air. Karakoc et al. (2019) believe that the problem of air pollution in the aviation sector can effectively be addressed when individual companies play their role without being coerced by governments to do so. Emirates Airlines is committed to taking a leading role in these efforts, and it is worth investigating the strategy it has taken and determining its level of success.

Conceptual Aspect of the Research

The aviation industry is one of the crucial sectors in transport that play a critical role in supporting the growth and sustainability of the other sectors of the economy. However, there is a growing concern about its impact on the environment, especially as the emission of greenhouse gases continues to increase. In road transport, major advancements toward reduced emissions of greenhouse gases have been witnessed over the past decade. Benito and Alonso (2018) report that car manufacturers have tried to address the problem by introducing two types of engines. The first one is the hybrid car engines that utilize both gasoline and electricity. At certain speeds, and when the car battery is fully charged, the transmission is changed to ensure that the car uses electricity. It significantly reduces the consumption of gasoline, which significantly reduces the production of carbon dioxide by such vehicles.

A further step has been taken toward zero carbon emission when fully electric cars were introduced. These cars do not rely on gasoline to run their engines. They have powerful battery packs that can fully run the engines for several hundreds of kilometers because they can be recharged again. A fully electric car does not emit any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (Farokhi, 2021). The railway sector is also going electric, which means that they are becoming environmentally friendly. These advances in road and rail transport show that they are becoming sustainable, especially if all these vehicles can be converted to become electric.

The advancements toward zero emissions in air transport have not been as rapid as road and rail transport. If a car or train engine stalls because the electric energy cannot sustain its power anymore, the vehicle is safely brought to a stop without exposing the lives of passengers and crew to major risks. In air transport, a stalled engine can easily become catastrophic. Kalghatgi et al. (2022) explain that some of the most catastrophic air accidents were caused by engines turning off after running out of fuel while in the air. Such a plane must come down, and if a safe landing is not available within a safe distance, crashing will be inevitable. Even if there is an airport close by, Karaman, Kilic and Uyar (2018) observe the landing process for a plane that has run out of fuel and engine power is more complex than one that has engine power. It explains why the advancement towards fully electric aircraft engines is taking longer than in the road transport sector. Figure 1.2 below shows the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector to climate change.

Climate forcings from global aviation
Figure 1.2. Climate forcings from global aviation (Carbonaro, 2020, para. 7).

At Emirates Airline, there is a concerted effort to reduce waste production associated with operational activities. The company reports that it has taken deliberate steps to minimize its emission of carbon into the atmosphere. The company has purchased the technologically-advanced wide-body jets known to be fuel efficient as one of the initiatives to reduce its emissions (Emirates, 2022). Besides using solar energy in its ground operations, the firm has also invested in biofuels to reduce reliance on the national grid and protect the environment. It is necessary to investigate if these initiatives are yielding the desired results of achieving sustainability in its airport operations.

The Rationale of the Research

Air transport has gained a central role in international transport. Journeys from one continent to another, which would have taken several weeks, only take a few hours (Guimarans, 2019). Top executives can easily move from one location to another within a relatively short time because of the speed of air transport and the ability to avoid traffic jams, which are becoming common in major cities around the world. The industry is becoming critical not only to individuals but to industries as well. The tourism industry largely depends on air transport to facilitate the rapid movement of people from one place to another. Cities such as Dubai have become leading economic and tourists’ hub because of the flourishing aviation industry.

Air pollution that is directly linked to activities in the aviation industry is threatening the sustainability of this transport sector. It has forced players in the industry to start thinking of ways in which they can reduce the emission of gases. Payán-Sánchez (2018) explains that managing air pollution in the aviation sector requires a commitment of different stakeholders. It starts with the manufacturers producing fuel-efficient planes. The engine manufacturers should address the issue of fuel consumption and emission of greenhouse gases while plane manufacturers have to address the aerodynamics of the structure to minimize air resistance. Individual airline companies also have a role to play in ensuring that they limit the emission of carbon dioxide during normal operations. This study explains steps that Emirates Airline has taken to address these concerns as its fleet size continues to grow as shown in figure 1.3 below and determine how effective they are.

The growing fleet size of Emirates Airline
Figure 1.3. The growing fleet size of Emirates Airline (Schonland, 2015, para.3).

Research Aim and Objectives

Stating research aims and objectives helps in defining the path that should be taken to collect and process data. The project aims to determine the frameworks applied by Emirates Airlines to address environmental sustainability based on the operational changes implemented, and identify their efficiency. The following are the specific objectives that the study seeks to realize:

  • To analyze current environmental sustainability approaches in operations as exemplified in the Emirates Airlines framework.
  • To compare the environmental sustainability achievements of Emirates Airlines fulfilled in the last decade to those of other major global airlines.
  • To evaluate the success of the implementation of operational environmental sustainability aims addressed in the last decade by Emirates Airlines.
  • To measure the effectiveness of the frameworks practically applied by Emirates Airlines in regards to environmental sustainability in operations in the last ten years.
  • To recommend additional measures that can be successfully implemented by Emirates Airlines to address environmental sustainability in operation based on current research and evidence.

Theoretical Concept

This topic focuses on the theory of sustainability. According to Raya and González-Sánchez (2021), the concept of sustainability focuses on the ability of the current generation to utilize the natural resources to meet their needs in a way that does not compromise the ability of future generations from meeting theirs. As nations compete to become the leading economic and military powers, there is the temptation to maximize the exploitation and consumption of natural resources to facilitate economic growth (Chen and Ren, 2018). However, such economic activities should not affect the future generation negatively. The greatest concern is the pollution of the environment, which is believed to cause climate change and global warming. The theory of sustainable development has three main pillars, defined as the planet, people, and profits. Planet, or the protection of the environment, is often ignored as companies focus on profit. The next chapter discusses this theory in great detail and the importance of firms in the aviation sector, including Emirates Airlines, embracing it.

Review of Literature


Sustainability in airport operations is a field that has attracted the attention of many scholars over the past few decades. It has become increasingly evident that the industry’s traditional practices are no longer sustainable (Song, Choi and Han, 2020). The players have to consider embracing emerging technologies and practices to help in addressing challenges related to emissions. It was necessary to review what other scholars have found out in previous studies. Chen and Ren (2018) explain that a review of the literature not only helps to understand knowledge gaps but also eliminates cases of duplicating already existing information. A research project is only meaningful if it adds new knowledge in a given field. The only way of avoiding duplication of knowledge is to start by understanding what other scholars have written in that field.

Understanding the Concept of Sustainability

The concept of sustainability has gained massive attention over the past two decades. According to Walls and Wittmer (2022), sustainability refers to the use of resources to meet the current needs in a way that does not compromise the ability of the future generation to meet theirs. The industrial revolution from 1860 to 1940 transformed production and the use of natural resources (Farokhi, 2019). The emergence of machines meant that it was possible to conduct mass production and consumption of natural resources. Despite the obvious benefits of this revolution, it had a devastating impact on the environment. It soon became apparent that industrial activities were having a profound negative impact on the environment. The use of fossil fuels was leading to a serious negative impact on the environment. Massive exploitation of natural resources was negatively affecting the environment, especially the cutting of trees and mining activities. It also became apparent that the current generation was using resources in ways that would compromise the ability of the future generation to meet theirs.

The business community realized that it was no longer possible to operate in total disregard for the concept of sustainability. As scientists continued to make discoveries, the global community realized that it was the responsibility of every individual and company to protect the environment and to use resources responsibly. Farokhi (2021) observes that in modern society, customers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the impact that their purchases have on the environment. They prefer purchasing products that have minimal or no negative impact on the environment. The trend has forced many companies to consider embracing sustainable production strategies. They embrace these strategies not only to cut their costs while at the same time protecting the environment but also to attract environment-friendly customers.

The concept of sustainability has three main pillars, as shown in figure 2.1 below. One of the fundamental pillars of sustainability is the environment. A firm has to ensure that its activities do not pose a serious threat to the environment. Walker et al. (2020) argue that it starts with managing pollution coming from the company. It is the responsibility of a firm to ensure that it manages the land, water, and air pollution from its production activities. When a firm continues to pollute the environment around which it operates, the environment soon becomes unsustainable, making it difficult to continue with economic activities.

When the need to manage pollution has been addressed, a firm needs to manage its consumption of natural resources. Many companies are moving towards the use of renewable resources to not only limit their carbon emissions but also ensure that they use available resources sustainably. Solar energy is rapidly becoming popular because it is a renewable source. In the aviation sector, Benito and Alonso (2018) argue that firms are embracing cleaner sources of fuel as a way of protecting the environment. Karakoc et al. (2019) believe that the shift towards renewable energy sources in the aviation sector is driven by the desire to cut costs and reduce reliance on jet fuel, whose price continues to fluctuate in the international market.

The concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling (3Rs) is also gaining traction in the field of sustainability. It emphasizes the need to reduce the consumption of resources to the bare minimum (Kalghatgi et al., 2022). Firms should avoid excess usage of resources that leads to unnecessary production of wastes without necessarily increasing the production capacity. It also encourages the reuse of resources as much as possible to minimize the need for a firm to acquire more resources. As long as a given resource can be used again, a firm should avoid purchasing a new one. It also cherishes the concept of recycling resources. Where possible, a firm should remain committed to recycling its wastes instead of disposing of them. Once recycled, such resources can be reused or sold to other companies that can use them (Payán-Sánchez, 2018). The goal of the 3Rs is to ensure that a firm’s activities produce minimal amounts of waste possible. It also helps in lowering the cost of production and operation.

The second pillar of sustainability, as shown in the figure below, is the social aspect of a business. A firm cannot survive if it ignores its employees and the people in the immediate environment (Karaman, Kilic and Uyar, 2018). Successful firms have learned and embraced the need to ensure that employees are satisfied. It involves paying them attractive remunerations and affording them a sustainable working environment. They should feel respected and valued at all times (Guimarans, 2019). They should also have the ability to try new concepts and strategies as a way of enhancing their creativity and innovativeness.

The community within which a firm operates directly influences the success and sustainability of a firm. The community can force a firm to stop its operations by petitioning the government or even sabotaging the activities of a firm directly (Kılıça, Uyar and Karaman, 2019). When they feel that the firm’s operations are affecting their health, security, and wellbeing, they can facilitate its fall. As such, a firm has a responsibility to protect the interest of the immediate community, even if they are not direct customers. Their concerns should be addressed instead of ignored. A firm should make a deliberate effort to make the community feel that they own or are part of the company (Raya and González-Sánchez, 2021). This can be done by employing the locals, creating business opportunities for them, supporting the education sector and the environment, and fighting for their interests as much as possible.

The third pillar of sustainability is the economic environment. In many cases, many firms tend to focus on this pillar instead of the other two equally important pillars. A firm’s operations can only be sustainable if it makes attractive profits (Song, Choi and Han, 2020). The activities should generate enough income to meet all the expenses and support future expansion needs. Achieving profit requires a firm to lower its production costs as much as possible without compromising on quality, while at the same time maintaining the current pricing. Customers will only pay a price that they feel reflects the value they get. They will also consider the price of competing or alternative products.

Pillars of Sustainability
Figure 2.1. Pillars of Sustainability (Crowther and Seifi, 2022).

Impact of Aviation Activities on the Environment

The emission of greenhouse gases remains a major concern in the current industrialized global community. As shown in figure 2.2 below, different industries count for varying percentages of greenhouse gas emissions. Production of electricity was identified as the leading cause of emission of carbon dioxide, at 44%. Naff and Matson (2020) explain that in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Qatar where there are few rivers, the production of electricity for domestic and commercial use is done using fossil fuel. The increasing demand for electricity because of the growing population means that renewable sources such as hydroelectric power and solar energy are barely enough (Chen and Ren, 2018). It forces the government, companies, and individuals to rely on gasoline-powered generators to get the needed power.

The road transport sector is the second largest producer of carbon dioxide, at 17%. The number of vehicles on the roads is rapidly increasing because of several reasons. Farokhi (2019) believes that one of the reasons why the number of vehicles is increasing is the increase in the population. The rural to urban migration is also exerting more pressure on the transport sector as many people have to use public means of transport regularly to and from work. Increasing standard of living means that many people own and use private cars.

Buildings are believed to emit 10% of the greenhouse gases because of activities such as cooking, heating, and all activities that involve the use of energy. The iron and steel sector is another industry emitting 5% of carbon dioxide. The cement industry accounts for 4%, shipping 3%, and other industrial sectors account for 9%. The statistics show the worrying trend of emission of greenhouse gases that directly contribute to global warming and climate change.

The aviation sector, as shown in the figure below, accounts for only 2% of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. One can assume that air transport is relatively safer for the environment when compared with others such as road or sea transport. However, Singh (2021) warns that the assumption can be misleading because traffic in the aviation sector is significantly smaller than that of road transport. In developing countries, the percentage of those who use air transport regularly is less than 1%. The rest of the population use road transport in one way or the other. In developed countries, air transport is common, but those who use it regularly are insignificant when compared with the rest of the population.

Emission of greenhouse gases by industry
Figure 2.2. Emission of greenhouse gases by industry (Air Transport Action Group, 2022, para. 4).

The number of those who use air transport is increasing considerably both in the developed and developing economies. As the traffic in the aviation sector increases, it is expected that the emission of green will increase considerably. Statistics show how the emission of these gases has been increasing over the years. In 1940, the aviation sector accounted for less than 0.5% of the emission of these gases (Walls and Wittmer, 2022). A decade later in 1950, it had increased to 1% of the total emissions. By 1970, it had gone to almost 2%. The statistics below confirm that this industry accounts for about 2% of the emission of carbon dioxide, but these numbers are rising. Although the growth may be slow, one has to consider that other industries have also been increasing their emissions considerably. Although the percentage of emissions has stagnated at 2%, the actual volume of these gases emitted by the industry has increased considerably over the years (Farokhi, 2021). It is an indication that there is a need to find a way of addressing this problem.

Initiatives Taken to Reduce Negative Environmental Factors

Players in the aviation industry understand the danger that their operations pose to the environment. According to Karakoc et al. (2019), stakeholders in this industry have remained committed to reducing the emission of these gases through various initiatives. One of the initiatives embraced is the optimization of aerodynamics. Manufacturers of aircraft have been keen on redefining the shape of the planes to ensure that they have minimal air resistance possible (Walker et al., 2020). Doing so significantly reduces the amount of fuel that the plane uses.

These manufacturers are also using advanced materials for the construction of the aircraft. Benito and Alonso (2018) note that new models are manufactured from light but strong carbon materials. The lighter the aircraft is, the lesser the energy it uses, and the faster it can travel, lowering the overall emission of carbon dioxide. The introduction of next-generation engines has also helped in addressing the problem. Major manufacturers of aircraft engines have introduced advanced technologies meant to enhance fuel efficiency and emit more power to facilitate faster travel with reduced consumption rates. As shown in figure 2.3 below, these initiatives have made it possible for the sector to reduce the rate of emissions per passenger kilometer by almost 50%.

The impressive achievement made is an indication that more can still be realized if stakeholders make the right effort. The fact that the percentage of emissions in this industry has stagnated at 2% is a sign that more can still be done. To address the remaining 50% of the emission, one of the major factors that need to be considered is the use of sustainable aviation fuels. Hydrogen fuel is emerging as a major consideration that can help lower the emission of greenhouse gases. This technology is in advanced stages and it is expected that within the next decade, large commercial jets could be powered by hydrogen (Kalghatgi et al., 2022). Using this new technology is expected to reduce the production of carbon dioxide by 53%. It will be a major development toward achieving environmental sustainability in the aviation sector.

New engines and aircraft technologies are emerging in this sector. These new engines will be able to use alternative energy sources that are friendlier to the environment. It is expected that these emerging technologies will make aircraft more efficient in the consumption of energy. These new technologies are expected to lower the production of carbon dioxide by 34%. Improved ATM and aircraft operations will also play an essential role in the reduction of the emission of gasses. Streamlining operations and making sure that there is a commitment among all the stakeholders, especially the employees, to reduce misuse of energy and irresponsible disposal of wastes. It is believed that market-based measures will also make it possible to lower the production of these gases in the atmosphere. It means that all the players in the industry have a critical role in ensuring that airport operations remain as sustainable as possible.

Industry measures are meant to lower the emission of carbon dioxide
Figure 2.3. Industry measures are meant to lower the emission of carbon dioxide (Singh, 2021, para 6).

Competition as a Measure towards Sustainable Operations

Competition is often viewed as a force that threatens the sustainability of a business. Singh (2021) explains that stiff competition in the market often leads to price wars, especially in cases where rivals offer similar products. When a firm has nothing more unique to offer its customers compared to a rival company, it can easily consider using pricing as the only option for attracting customers. This strategy has commonly been used in this industry by several airlines and the long-term effect is often devastating. Kingfisher Airlines Limited is one such company that opted to use a pricing strategy to outsmart its competitors in the market. Sharma and Gupta (2019) report that at one time, Kingfisher Airlines Limited controlled more than 50% of the low-cost carriers in India, which indicated that the pricing strategy was working in short term. However, it was forced out of the market a few years later, having operated in the market for less than a decade. It was an indication that the strategy it was using was not sustainable.

When a firm embraces sustainable competitive practices, then it becomes resilient to numerous challenges that the market presents. Competition is the only non-governmental force that can help promote sustainable practices in the market. One of how competition is forcing airlines to focus on environmental conservation is the increasing awareness and interest in environmental conservation by the targeted customers (Sharma and Gupta, 2019). The majority of regular users of air travel are aware of the dangers of climate change and global warming. They are also aware of the contributions that airlines make toward the emission of greenhouse gases. To play their role in addressing this problem in the aviation sector, Kurnaz and Argin (2022) note that a majority now demand to know the steps that airlines take to minimize environmental pollution. They would consider using airlines that have demonstrated their commitment and capacity to fight emissions of these gases.

The shifting preferences of customers are redefining the direction that competition is taking in the aviation sector. Although factors such as safety, security, comfort, and cost among other traditional factors are still important, airlines have realized that environmental protection is another new factor that can no longer be ignored. Competition is taking a new direction as airlines currently focus on how to improve the efficiency of their operations to reduce air pollution. Companies like Emirates Airlines feel compelled to make regular press releases about the commitment and efforts they are making to reduce pollution (Emirates, 2022). To outsmart their rivals and please clients, the airline has taken various initiatives to lower the emission of greenhouse gases.

Most of the emissions in the aviation industry arise from the burning of jet fuels by the engines. Airlines cannot directly define the emissions from these engines. That can only be addressed by the aircraft manufacturers and engine manufactures. Competition in the aviation sector is creating pressure on the airlines, from the customers, which is then passed on to aircraft manufacturers. Companies such as Boeing and Airbus are currently under immense pressure to produce fuel-efficient planes. These companies have redesigned the aerodynamics of their aircraft to make them less resistant to friction, making them fuel efficient (Karakoc et al., 2019). Large aircraft that carry an increased number of passengers help in reducing the number of planes in their air, which subsequently reduces the amount of carbon dioxide emission per passenger per mile.

The pressure to produce fuel-efficient aircraft is finally passed to engine manufacturers. General Electric and Rolls-Royce are the leading manufacturers of commercial jet engines. These firms are currently under immense pressure to meet the demand for fuel-efficient engines. The stiff competition in the industry has taken an innovative turn as they try to use emerging trends and technologies to make their products more desirable (Walls and Wittmer, 2022). They understand that their customers will choose a product that meets the emerging demand.

When stiff competition takes the path of innovation instead of price wars, it becomes sustainable. Farokhi (2019) explains that when innovation is the guiding path in a competitive environment, firms will try to find ways of cutting costs while at the same time adding value to their products as a way of attracting customers. In the aviation sector, leading engine manufacturers have been improving their products in terms of efficiency and fuel consumption. The stiff competition is pushing them towards hydrogen jet fuels, which is a revolutionary technology. If this technology is applied successfully, jets will start using this new environmentally sustainable fuel. The new fuel only emits heat and water instead of carbon dioxide (Walls and Wittmer, 2022). It is an indication of the power of competition as a driver toward sustainable operations in the aviation sector.

Government Policies and Regulations

The need to enhance sustainability in airport operations is becoming dire. The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the aviation industry to shut down as countries around the world closed their skies as a way of managing the threat of the spread of the virus. The shutdown had a devastating effect on the social, political, and economic lives of people all over the world (Kudriashova, 2020). It was a clear demonstration of the significance of air travel to the global community. Benito and Alonso (2018) note that even those who have never used air transport directly benefit from it because of the goods that have to be transported by air. As such, government entities and regional bodies cannot ignore the regulatory role that they have to play to protect the environment.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been keen on finding ways of fighting pollution that arises from the aviation industry. As the international body that is responsible for planning and development of global air travel, it has been working with regional agencies and individual airline companies to find ways of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases in the industry. It has been conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to determine the overall effect of the industry on the environment and measures that can be taken to address the problem.

In Europe, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has remained committed to addressing environmental concerns in the aviation sector. The agency introduced EU Emissions Trading System Directive to specifically address the increasing emission of carbon dioxide by airlines in the region (Karakoc et al., 2019). It has been working closely with scientists and firms in the industry to find a way of lowering these emissions. In its effort to achieve climate neutrality, this agency introduced the European Green Deal, which is an ambitious program meant to reduce air transport emissions by more than 90% by 2050, when compared to the 1990 levels (Walker et al., 2020). It is working with local airlines and aircraft manufacturers to achieve this goal.

In North America, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), issued greenhouse gas emission standards for specific aircraft in 2020. The government restricts the carbon emission for each category of aircraft to certain levels (Karakoc et al., 2019). These regulations mean that once an aircraft has reached its limit within a given quota, it cannot take to the skies until the next quota. The alternative is to buy an extra emission allowance from aircraft that have not exceeded their emissions. However, doing so comes at an extra cost, which is undesirable to the airline company. This strategy has pushed airline companies to demand fuel-efficient engines and planes that have minimal emissions of these gases. They demand new technologically advanced planes that can stay in the skies for longer without exceeding the limit of emissions set by the government.

When national, regional, and international regulatory agencies work together to fight the emission of carbon dioxide in the aviation industry, it is more likely that the desired results will be realized. Stiff competition and the demand for cleaner air travel are indeed pushing airlines and aircraft manufacturers towards having more efficient engines and the use of clean energy. However, when pressure from these regulatory agencies is introduced, the desired results are likely to be achieved within a shorter period. These firms will realize that it is no longer optional to embrace sustainable airport operation strategies.

Research Methodology


The previous chapter has provided a detailed review of literature on the issue of environmental sustainability in airports. It has also identified knowledge gaps that need to be addressed through the collection and analysis of primary data. In this section, the focus is to explain how data was collected and analyzed. The chapter discusses the preparations made in the study, research design, and objectives of the research. The sampling method and sample size, data collection method, which includes a questionnaire design, and data analysis are also addressed. The chapter finally addresses issues about validity, reliability, and ethical concerns.

Researcher’s Preparation for the Study

The success of every research project depends on the level of preparation made. According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2019), one needs to take deliberate steps to gain relevant knowledge before starting the process of data collection. It is essential to understand what one seeks to investigate before the actual process of collecting and processing data is begun. In this case, preparations were started by attending classes as required. The researcher was able to understand the concept of environmental sustainability in different industries, including the aviation sector. Attending classes regularly also made it possible for the researcher to understand research methods and their significance when conducting a similar study.

Conducting private research was another important aspect of the preparation. Seligman (2020) advises that a student is expected to conduct independent research to gain further knowledge on concepts taught in class. The researcher regularly visited the school library to gain more understanding of the concept of environmental sustainability and research methods. Online databases were visited to help gain the information needed to make this project a success. Besides private reading, group discussions were also essential in the preparation process. The researcher teamed up with other students to discuss various concepts before each student could focus on their projects. Such discussions were essential in addressing issues that were not clear

Research Methodology

Research methodology is one of the factors that have to be defined in clear terms to help readers to understand how the knowledge was developed. A researcher can use qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research methods, depending on the goal that needs to be realized. In this case, the goal was to determine the frameworks applied by Emirates Airlines to address environmental sustainability. Qualitative data would be appropriate in explaining these frameworks in detail. However, it was necessary to conduct a statistical analysis of the data to achieve the objectives. As such, the most desirable research method was the quantitative analysis of data.

Quantitative methods use statistical analysis to process primary data. It helps in explaining the degree of the relationship of different variables in the study. In this case, it helped in explaining how specific independent variables (actions taken by Emirates Airlines) directly influence the dependent variable. It employs statistical tools such as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) to process the data. This method was considered effective in effectively responding to the aim and objectives of the research.

Objectives of the Research

The method that a researcher embraces in a given study depends on the aim and objectives that need to be realized. According to Kara and Kara (2017), referring back to the objectives when collecting and processing data makes it possible for a researcher to remain focused on the goal of the study. It eliminates cases where one collects information that is not relevant to the research. The following are the objectives that had to be achieved in this project:

  • To analyze current environmental sustainability approaches in operations as exemplified in the Emirates Airlines framework.
  • To compare the environmental sustainability achievements of Emirates Airlines fulfilled in the last decade to those of other major global airlines.
  • To evaluate the success of the implementation of operational environmental sustainability aims addressed in the last decade by Emirates Airlines.
  • To measure the effectiveness of the frameworks practically applied by Emirates Airlines in regards to environmental sustainability in operations in the last ten years.
  • To recommend additional measures that can be successfully implemented by Emirates Airlines to address environmental sustainability in operation based on current research and evidence.

Sample Details and Sample Techniques

The concept of environmental sustainability has gained the massive attention of various stakeholders in the aviation sector. Data could be collected from a wide range of participants in this industry within the country. However, Delyra (2019) advises that it is often important to select a small manageable sample to represent the entire population. Sampling was done by first selecting the specific organization from which data had to be collected. Emirates Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, with its headquarters in the city of Dubai. It was selected because it has one of the most ambitious environmental sustainability programs in the world. The management and employees of this firm understand the importance of protecting the environment in the firm’s normal operations.

Sample Size

When an organization has been selected, it is essential to identify a small population that can be interviewed within the time available. Stratified random sampling was used as the most appropriate strategy for selecting participants (Ang, 2021). The entire population in the organization was classified into two strata, management and non-management employees of the firm. There was a need to collect data from both the managers and non-management employees to have an unbiased analysis of the information needed. A sample size of 40 employees of Emirates Airline was considered adequate for the study.

Sample Area

The selected sample area should reflect the nature of data that needs to be collected for the study. The sample area was limited to the headquarters of Emirates Airlines at the Dubai International Airport. The firm has offices and employees in different parts of the world. However, the study had to be limited to the United Arab Emirates, and specifically at the port mentioned above. Although numerous other airlines are using this port, data were collected only from the employees of Emirates Airlines.

Data Collection

When the sample area is defined and the participants identified, the next step is to collect the necessary data. Dawson (2020) warns that at this stage of the project, care should be taken to ensure that information gathered is relevant to the aim and objectives of the study. It requires having specific questions that focus on the primary goals of the study. The researcher developed a questionnaire to facilitate the collection of the primary data.

Questionnaire Design

A questionnaire as a tool for data collection is often essential. It helps in standardizing the questions presented to the participants. When conducting quantitative research, it is always necessary to standardize and quantify data. This tool makes it possible to achieve that goal, providing a strict guideline that respondents have to follow to answer each question. The format provided in the questionnaire enables a researcher to code the data for statistical analysis (Kara and Kara, 2017). The document also helps in ensuring that no information is forgotten or ignored in the process of collecting and analyzing data.

The questionnaire used in this project had three main sections. The first section focused on the demographic of the participants. It was important to capture the age, nationality, and residency of the participants. The researcher wanted to ensure that those who take part in the study are Emirati nationals or foreigners who have stayed in the country long enough to understand the dynamics of the aviation industry in the local context. The second section of the instrument focused on the academic qualification and experience of the participants. Seligman (2020) explains that individuals with high academic qualifications and experience tend to provide more authoritative information that is reliable.

The last section of the questionnaire focused on specific issues relating to exploring sustainability in airport operations in the context of Emirates Airlines. These questions were focused on responding to the aim and objectives of the study. The researcher used structured (closed-ended) questions in this section. These questions were important because they made it possible to code the responses in a way that could be statistically analyzed using a Microsoft Excel sheet. This instrument is attached as appendix 1 in this report.

Data Collection Method

When the instrument used for data collection has been developed, the consent obtained, and participants sampled, the last step is to collect data from the participants. Dawson (2020) advises that a researcher should select the most appropriate method of collecting data based on time, resources, and other constraints faced. Face-to-face interviews were considered the most desirable because of the physical interaction between the researcher and the participants. However, issues such as the limited time and COVID-19 concerns made it less desirable. An online survey was considered the best alternative to a face-to-face interview.

Once the sample had been identified, and participants contacted, the researcher sent the questionnaires to each one of them through their e-mail addresses. A phone call was then made, informing them that the instrument had been delivered and that they had five days to respond to the questions. The researcher also informed the participants that they could call at any time in case they needed clarification when responding to the questions. Those who failed to deliver the filled questionnaires had to be replaced to maintain the sample size at 40 participants.

Data Analysis

Processing of primary data is conducted once all the questionnaires have been obtained from the participants. Kara and Kara (2017) explain that information obtained in a questionnaire is raw, and it has to be processed to respond to the aim and objectives of the study. As mentioned above, the most appropriate research design for this study was quantitative methods. Primary data had to be processed quantitatively to achieve the intended goal. Information from the instrument was coded and the codes were entered into the Excel spreadsheet. Statistical analysis was conducted to determine the nature and magnitude of the relationship between the dependent and independent variables. The outcome of the analysis was presented in the form of graphs and charts.

Validity and Reliability

Validity and reliability issues are often important considerations in research. They help in assuring users of the report that findings and recommendations can be relied upon as being truthful (Seligman, 2020). In this project, the validity issue was enhanced by ensuring that the instrument used was capable of collecting the information needed as accurately as possible. Before sending the material to the participants, it was tested to ensure that it could collect the information needed. Reliability is equally important because it focuses on the consistency of the measure. To achieve this goal, the researcher made sure that the methods used to collect and process data were defined in a simple, clear, and detailed form that could be easily repeated if necessary, and would produce the same outcome.

Ethical Considerations

When conducting research that involves human subjects, it is critical to take into consideration ethical concerns. Consent, harm, privacy, and deception are some of the major issues that have to be considered. In this study, consent had to be obtained in two main ways. First, the researcher had to seek the consent of the management of the organization before interviewing its employees. The aim of the research had to be explained as well as the reason why the organization was chosen. Once the consent was obtained, the researcher also had to get the consent of individual participants. The researcher had to explain to them their role and the voluntary nature of the study.

It is the responsibility of a researcher to ensure that subjects in a given study are not subjected to any harm. One of the ways of protecting participants in a study, as Seligman (2020) observes, is to ensure that their identity is not revealed. When addressing an issue that is controversial or divisive, an individual may be targeted by the management or colleagues for victimization if they have a different opinion. Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2019) state that an employee can lose their job if the management feels that their opinion goes against the principles of the organization. It made it necessary to enhance privacy by using codes instead of the actual names of the participants. The respondents were assigned codes (Participant 1, Participant 2, and Participant 3 …) instead of their actual names.

Deception is another issue of concern that a researcher has to address in such a project. Delyra (2019) argues that sometimes one is tempted to lie about the real intentions in a study to get the needed consent, both from the management of an organization and its employees. It is ethically wrong to hide the true intention of the study from the subject. The researcher remained truthful in providing the relevant information to the subjects during data collection. All their questions were answered truthfully and their concerns were dealt with appropriately.

As an academic project, some rules and regulations have to be followed when conducting the study and submitting the report. One of the major academic offenses that were avoided in this project is plagiarism (Dawson, 2020). The researcher wrote the paper from scratch, and information that was obtained from secondary sources was correctly referenced using the Harvard referencing style. It was also necessary to ensure that the report was completed and submitted within the timeline that had been set by the school.

Data Analysis and Discussion


The previous chapter has explained the method that was used to collect and process primary data in the study. This chapter focuses on the analysis of the data to respond to the aim and objectives of the study. Data that was obtained from primary sources were analyzed statistically to understand the environmental sustainability framework that this company uses in its operations.

Data Analysis

When conducting the analysis, the focus was to understand the framework that this company is using to achieve environmental sustainability in its airport operations. As the leading airline in the region, Emirates Airlines is always under scrutiny for its greenhouse gas emissions, and the firm must find a way of addressing this problem to protect its image in the market. It was necessary to examine how Emirates Airlines addresses environmental sustainability through operational changes and improvements when it comes to planning, investing, researching, and altering business processes.

Operational-Specific Strategies of Enhancing Sustainability at Emirates

The analysis of findings narrowed down to specific operational activities undertaken by Emirates Airline to achieve the desired level of environmental sustainability. The researcher asked each of the 40 participants to state just one specific operational activity at Emirates meant to enhance environmental sustainability. As shown in figure 4.1 below, these activities can be broadly classified as on-the-ground and in-the-air operational activities. The respondents were requested to explain each of these strategies.

In the air, Emirates Airline has taken specific steps meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the generation of waste. 12.5% of the participants noted that environmental sustainability at the company has focused on the purchase and running of the most modern and eco-efficient wide-body aircraft. The management of this company understands that the majority of pollution in this industry comes from engine emissions. As such, it has remained committed to purchasing modern planes. Respondents noted that Emirates Airline has one of the quietest large planes, meant to lower emissions. The company also boasts of having one of the youngest fleets in the aviation industry, which is a further demonstration of the firm’s commitment to reducing emissions in its operations.

Emirates Airline has taken deliberate steps to achieve fuel efficiency in its operations, as was noted by 22.5% of those who participated in this study. The respondents noted that there is an effective flight planning system that focuses on factors such as weather conditions of the day, aerospace constraints, and the type of aircraft that is allocated on the route. The firm has trained its pilots to embrace best practices such as continuous descents and climbs, and inflight rerouting when on long-haul flights among other strategies to respond to wind patterns to enhance efficiency. Pilots are also trained on how to use auxiliary power, idle reverse thrust, and when to switch off the engine, all to reduce consumption of fuel without exposing passengers and crew to any danger. The company has also encouraged air traffic management at the local Dubai International Airport and other airports to embrace the latest technologies to enhance operational procedures and offer greater flexibility on issues such as flight routes.

Onboard recycling was identified by 10% of the respondents as another sustainability strategy at Emirates Airline. Instead of disposing of wastes generated during a flight, the company has decided to recycle these materials whenever it is possible. The firm’s economy-class blankets are made from recycled plastics. These blankets are comfortable to use and do not pose health hazards to the users. The company has also partnered with other firms to help recycle food items left-over during flights instead of disposing of them. These steps are specifically meant to ensure that the firm’s operations do not pose adverse effects on the environment.

The last factor in the category of in-air initiatives was biofuel technologies. 12.5% of the participants noted that this is an area that Emirates Airline is giving priority in its operations. The management admits that the company cannot introduce jet engines that can use clean energy. However, it is aware that the technology is emerging and it has the potential to revolutionize the aviation sector. On its part, the firm has been working with other players to find ways of making such fuels conveniently available once the technology is fully developed. It has also been spending resources on research to understand how these new technologies will redefine operations in the aviation sector. The management believes that once introduced, this technology will also help in lowering the cost of operations, making it possible for the airline to lower its prices, which in turn, will attract more customers.

Emirates Airline’s environmental sustainability strategies
Figure 4.1. Emirates Airline’s environmental sustainability strategies

The analysis also revealed that Emirates Airline’s ground operations are also focused on achieving sustainability. 7.5% of the participants identified ground transport as a critical operational activity that the firm has focused on when trying to enhance sustainability. They reported that the firm has taken deliberate steps to ensure that its vehicle fleet minimizes its environmental footprint. Besides embracing new road transport technologies such as the use of hybrid and electric cars and trucks, the company has also made sure that these vehicles move only when it is necessary to do so.

The respondents explained that the firm has embraced the 3-Rs of sustainability (Reduce, reuse, and recycle) in its operation. 17.5% of the respondents noted that using the 3-Rs in operations has helped the company to cut costs and reduce waste generation. One of the strategies it introduce to help reduce waste in its operations was the ‘Think before You Print’ campaign that required staff to reassess if it was really necessary to print a document or rely on the digital format. This strategy alone led to a 33% drop in the volume of printing, resulting in the saving of paper and electricity used in that department. The company has also been recycling water, which is then used for cleaning and other related services.

10% of the respondents believe that the new approach of cleaning aircraft without water is a revolutionary operational strategy meant to enhance sustainability. The strategy, which the respondents referred to as ‘dry-wash’, is a unique technique that is eco-friendly. It involves applying cleaning agents on the surface of the aircraft, then wiping it off, which removes dirt in the process. The respondents explained that this strategy helps save millions of liters of water that would have been used to clean the numerous planes at the company. Figure 4.2 below shows workers at Emirates Airline dry-cleaning an aircraft.

Emirate Airline employees dry-cleaning an aircraft
Figure 4.2. Emirate Airline employees dry-cleaning an aircraft (Emirates, 2022).

The respondents also identified that reduced electricity consumption is another sustainable strategy at Emirates Airline. 7.5% of those who took part in the online survey explained that the company has introduced light emitting diode (LED) lights in its ground facilities, saving it thousands of megawatt‑hours of electricity and reducing almost 10 thousand tons of carbon that would have been emitted into the atmosphere. The strategy has also reduced the pressure that the firm would have put on the national grid.

Comparing the environmental sustainability achievements of Emirates Airlines fulfilled in the last decade to those of other major global airlines

Emirates Airlines has remained committed to meeting industry standards regarding environmental sustainability. It was necessary to compare the environmental sustainability achievements of the company that it has fulfilled in the last decade with those of other major airlines in the region. The researcher asked respondents if they believe the current sustainability framework and strategies that the firm uses match the industry’s best practices. Figure 4.3 below shows the views and perceptions of the respondents on this issue.

The majority of the respondents (55%) strongly agree that the firm’s strategies match the industry’s best practices. Another 35% also noted that they agree with the statement, which means that 90% of those who were engaged in data collection agree that the sustainability strategies of Emirates Airlines meet the industry’s best practices. 5% of those interviewed noted that they are not sure whether these standards meet the industry’s best practices. Only 5% of the respondents had a contrary opinion, of which 2% disagree and the other 3% strongly disagreed with the statement. Statistically, it is safe to assume that the sustainability framework and strategies that Emirates Airlines is using meet the aviation industry’s best practices.

Comparing the industry's best practices in environmental sustainability
Figure 4.3. Comparing the industry’s best practices in environmental sustainability with those at Emirates Airline

Evaluating the success of the implementation of operational environmental sustainability aims addressed in the last decade by Emirates Airlines

The respondents were asked about the success of sustainability strategies that the company has been using over the past decade. The framework may match the industry’s best practices, but it may fail to meet specific goals set by the company. As shown in figure 4.4 below, the majority of the participants, 23 of the 40 or 57.5%, believe that the framework has been highly successful in meeting the goals of the firm. They believe that the strategies introduced have significantly reduced the emission of greenhouse gases per every passenger carried by the firm. Another 10 participants or 25% believe that the strategies have been successful. It means that an overwhelming majority of the participants, 82.5% believe that the framework has been a success. A significant minority of the participants, 6 individuals or 15% of the sampled population, noted that they were not sure about the levels of success. Only one individual noted that the strategy was barely successful. None of the 40 participants believe that the process was a complete failure. The statistical findings reveal that Emirates is making good progress towards achieving environmental sustainability in its operations.

Level of success of sustainability strategies at Emirates Airline
Figure 4.4. Level of success of sustainability strategies at Emirates Airline

Measuring the effectiveness of the frameworks practically applied by Emirates Airlines in regards to environmental sustainability in operations in the last ten years

It is common for a firm to develop a framework that appears to be superior to the rest on paper, but whose practicality is questionable. A framework used to enhance environmental sustainability should be as practical as possible. Respondents were asked to state if they believe that the framework that the company has been using in regards to environmental sustainability in operations in the last ten years is sustainable. 19 of the participants (47.5) strongly agree that it is practical, while another 13 of them (32.5%) agree with the statement. It means that a significant majority of the participants, at 80%, believe that the framework used is both effective and practical.

One participant noted that he was not sure about the practicality of some of the strategies that the company is embracing. 10% of the participants noted that they disagree with the statement that these strategies are practical, while another 7.5% strongly disagree. Findings reveal that although a few of the respondents are not convinced about the effectiveness and practicality of the framework, the majority believe that it works and is capable of achieving the intended environmental sustainability goals. Figure 4.5 below shows the statistical outcome of the analysis of primary data that was conducted.

Emerging trends and Emirates Airline’s sustainability practices
Figure 4.5. Emerging trends and Emirates Airline’s sustainability practices

Additional measures that can be successfully implemented by Emirates Airlines to address environmental sustainability in operation based on current research and evidence

Emirates Airlines has made an effort to achieve environmental sustainability in its airport operations. However, the researcher believed that more can be done to achieve even a greater result. Respondents were asked to state what they believe the firm can still do to further protect the environment. Promoting innovation among employees emerged as a major factor that can help enhance the outcome. Respondents felt that if the firm creates room for employees to be creative, they can come up with new ways of enhancing sustainability. Some of the participants noted that the firm should embrace emerging technologies as a way of lowering its emissions. The management should monitor emerging technology trends and embrace them if they promise to address the problem.

Empowering employees emerged as a major issue to be considered as an additional measure to the current strategies. Workers should be informed about the significance of reducing energy consumption and responsible disposal of wastes. They will understand the need to switch off lights when they are not using them, or responsibly dispose of, reuse, or recycle wastes when possible. Empowered employees will not have to be followed to do the right thing. Some participants felt that the firm should invest in research and development to find new environmental sustainability strategies. Increased cooperation with other stakeholders emerged as another factor that this company needs to embrace.

Additional measures to enhance environmental sustainability


Emirates Airlines is one of the largest and most successful airline companies in the world. The firm has achieved massive growth over the past decade despite the stiff competition in the industry. Despite this level of success, the firm is facing environmental sustainability challenges, just like any other firm in the industry. As the number of its fleet and flight hours continues to increase, so does the amount of carbon dioxide that it releases into the atmosphere. Scientists have warned that the current levels of air pollution attributed to the aviation industry are not sustainable (Naff & Matson, 2020). There is a need for the players to find ways of minimizing their emissions to help address the problem of global warming and climate change. Emirates Airlines is using a framework that integrates various strategies to achieve environmental sustainability in its airport operations.

The analysis of primary data has classified strategies that Emirates Airline uses to achieve sustainability into two classes. The first category is ‘in the air’ operations specifically meant to cut expenses and reduce pollution once an aircraft is in the air. These initiatives focus on embracing modern engine technologies and sustainable fuel. They also focus on responsible management of resources in the plane without compromising the comfort and safety of passengers. The second category was identified as ‘on the ground’ initiatives meant to ensure that ground activities are as efficient and friendly to the environment as possible. The respondents explained that the firm has taken deliberate steps to ensure that activities such as ground transport, cleaning of the aircraft, documentation, and use of electricity are done based on the emerging technologies and in a way that not only lowers the overall cost of operations but also reduces the impact on the environment.

Planning is one of the fundamental factors that help in enhancing environmental sustainability in airport operations. Singh (202) argues that planning can be looked at from different perspectives. For Emirates Airlines, it includes proper planning of flight schedules to ensure that empty seats are avoided as much as possible. The firm has an arrangement with other airlines to ensure that they can share and transfer passengers, especially on less busy routes, to avoid cases where an aircraft has numerous unoccupied seats. Planning also involves careful utilization of resources within the firm, including time. When efficiency in airport operations is enhanced, the amount of energy used with be decreased significantly. Every stakeholder will understand the role they need to play and the resources they are expected to use. It promotes a sense of responsibility among employees within the firm.

Investing in smart technologies is another factor that enhances environmental sustainability in an airport. At Emirates Airlines, it is reported that the management has introduced LED lights in all its offices, warehouses, and working spaces. This was done to lower the amount of electricity that it uses in normal operations. The company is also investing in new planes that are considered fuel efficient. According to Singh (2021), aircraft manufacturers are redefining the engine and aerodynamic structures of planes. They are now introducing fuel-efficient jet engines and aerodynamic body designs meant to significantly lower fuel consumption and enhance efficiency. Emirates Airlines is currently investing in these new aircraft to not only lower the cost of operations but also reduce the emission of carbon dioxide.

Researching is emerging as a critical issue in enhancing sustainability in any industry. A firm may opt to be an early adopter of new technologies and practices in the industry. However, sometimes it takes a long for new technology to become available to the public. By that time, the inventor shall have gained a competitive advantage from it (Farokhi, 2019). As such, a firm is required to invest in research to develop its concepts and technologies meant to increase efficiency. Emirates Airlines has been investing in various research projects to find ways of enhancing sustainability. It is aware of the fact that its success depends on its creativity and innovativeness in the market. Empowering employees at the firm has remained part of research development. It has been creating avenues through which its employees can create new concepts and strategies for undertaking their responsibilities more efficiently.

Altering business processes is another approach to achieving environmental sustainability in the aviation industry. Traditionally, a company would not consider a rival in the market as a partner unless it is a joint venture (Walls and Wittmer, 2022). However, Emirates Airlines is forced to work together with other airlines to reach numerous routes that it would not have covered or would be financially and environmentally costly to cover. The company is also moving away from traditional operational strategies to digital platforms considered more efficient and requiring a reduced number of employees.

Conclusions and Recommendations


Sustainability in airport operations is an issue that Emirates Airlines is taking seriously. The management of this firm understands that its rapid growth directly translates to increased emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The rapid growth of the firm in this highly competitive industry also means that its administration functions also have increased its carbon footprint. The emission of greenhouse gases is a common problem that all firms in the aviation industry face. The report shows that the aviation industry accounts for slightly more than 2% of the total greenhouse gases emission in the world. Although road transport accounts for a much higher percentage of this emission, a new invention of hybrid and the fully-electric car is likely to reduce this percentage. Individual companies in the aviation industry should understand the magnitude of this problem and the need to manage it. Emirates Airlines need to find a way of addressing this problem to ensure the firm can continue with its operations without facing serious challenges.

The company has outlined specific operational activities meant to enhance sustainability in its operations. These initiatives can generally be classified as ‘in the air’ activities and ‘on the ground’ activities. Data analyzed above shows that Emirates Airline has introduced new practices to minimize waste generation and to promote recycling and reuse of resources in the plane. The company also appreciates the need for biofuels as a means of not only lowering the cost of operations and stabilizing jet fuel prices but also minimizing the negative impact on the environment. On the ground, the firm has also redefined its operations to protect the environment. It is embracing the use of clean energy in ground transport. It has also introduced policies and practices meant to lower the consumption of electricity at its premises.

The emerging technologies in the field of hydrogen energy are promising to transform the aviation industry, especially in terms of the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Although Emirates Airlines, just like the other airlines around the world, cannot directly undertake the research into this field of hydrogen-powered jet engines, it has voiced its support for the technology and promised to purchase such planes if they are made available. The jet engine and aircraft manufacturers have the incentive to explore this field because they are assured that they will find customers for these products. They are convinced that this is a field worth exploring because the demand is already available.

Emirates Airlines has also been using internally-focused strategies to enhance sustainability in airport operations. It understands that its responsibility does not end with demanding for the manufacturers to maintain sustainable practices. The firm has been keen on reducing its energy consumption at its offices, warehouses, and working spaces. It has introduced the use of energy-efficient LED bulbs at all these premises to lower consumption. It is also introducing newer and more efficient tools of operations at these facilities. Empowering employees to make them understand their role in fighting environmental pollution is another initiative. These workers now appreciate the need to switch off lights when not in use. The company is also embracing the concept of 3-Rs. It is committed to reducing waste, reusing resources as much as possible, and recycling products as a way of reducing the impact of its activities on the environment.


Emirates Airlines is currently a dominant player in the global aviation industry. It has a critical role in ensuring that its operations are environmentally sustainable. As shown in this report, one of the critical pillars of sustainability is the environment. The following are the recommendations that the management of this company should take into consideration to achieve success in its environmental sustainability strategies:

  • The sales and marketing department of this firm should consider increased cooperation with other airlines to help reduce cases where some flights have just a few passengers to a specific destination. Some of these rival firms should be considered partners that offer complementary products by helping complete the journey for some of this firm’s clients.
  • The top management of this firm should prioritize investment in research. The study has revealed that some of the challenges that this company faces can be addressed through research. Part of the profit that this company makes should be dedicated to research to help address some of the fundamental problems.
  • The human resource department should empower employees of this firm. A firm that has empowered employees tends to be innovative in addressing everyday challenges. Workers should be regularly trained on emerging technologies and encouraged to be creative when undertaking their duties. When one makes a mistake when trying to do things differently and creatively but within the set guidelines and in the interest of the firm and clients, they should not be punished. Instead, those who come up with remarkable inventions should be properly rewarded.
  • The top management should embrace emerging technology in the overall operations of the firm. When a new technology is introduced in the aviation industry, the company should consider adopting it as early as it is considered to be beneficial, especially if it is addressing environmental concerns.

Research Limitations

It is important to note that when conducting this study, there were limitations that are worth discussing at this stage of the report. One of the major limitations observed in this study is the limited secondary resources that focus on the issue in the local context. The study focused on exploring sustainability in airport operations by Emirates Airlines. However, the majority of books and journal articles and books, which are available in the library and on online platforms, were published in North America and Europe. It is an indication that the research was done in these foreign nations. Finding relevant data that focus on local challenges faced by the airlines was not easy. The researcher had to rely on publications made by these local players in the aviation industry to understand these local problems. Although airlines operate in the global market, Sharma and Gupta (2019) warn that it can be misleading to assume that challenges in one region are similar to those in other regions. For instance, airport operation challenges in the United States are significantly different from those in the United Arab Emirates or India.

The global community has found a vaccine for COVID-19, and its crippling effects have been generally maintained. However, the virus is still spreading, and it still poses a grave danger to the unvaccinated, especially those with underlying conditions (Kurnaz and Argin, 2022). As such, many people still prefer avoiding unnecessary interactions as a way of staying safe from the virus. It was desirable to meet with the respondents and engage them in face-to-face interviews to have an in-depth understanding of the issue under investigation. However, that was not possible because of the concerns related to the spread of this virus. The researcher had to rely on an online survey, which meant that when one of the participants failed to return the questionnaire in time, it took longer to replace them. The researcher was able to gather primary data despite this limitation.

Time was a major constraint when collecting primary and secondary data. As an academic project, it was necessary to complete the report and hand it in within the time that was stipulated. It meant that the researcher had to plan these activities carefully to ensure that everything was done and completed within the available time, as Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2019) note. Conducting statistical analysis of primary data also consumes time, as the information has to be coded to allow for statistical analysis. Despite this limitation, the researcher was able to complete all these activities within the time that was made available. Overcoming all these research limitations was critical in ensuring that the project was completed successfully and within the guidelines provided by the school.

Scope for Future Work

Sustainability in airport operations is a field that requires regular research. Song, Choi and Han (2020) state that new trends and technologies are emerging in this industry as players seek to find ways of reducing carbon emissions and lowering the cost of operation. Some of the current sustainability practices may no longer be applicable in the long term. These traditional strategies may become obsolete, which means that they will have to be replaced. Scholars have to keep up with these changes and document new ways that should be embraced by the industry. The following are some of the areas that future scholarly works should focus on:

  • The use of hydrogen fuels to power jet engines is a promising prospect that will help combat the emission of greenhouse gases. However, critics of this new technology argue that it uses massive amounts of natural gas to fuel the process (Kurnaz and Argin, 2022). They argue that blue hydrogen may be more harmful than traditional jet fuel. These claims need to be addressed and a solution provided by future scholars in this field. These studies should find ways in which the new fuel technology can help address the current problems without creating new ones.
  • The electric plane engine is another emerging concept in the aviation sector that is attracting massive attention from stakeholders in the industry. Figure 7.1 below shows an electric plane in flight. This is an interesting prospect in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector. Future studies should focus on the applicability of this new technology, how it can be commercialized safely, and the steps needed to replace it with the current technology. Threats that it poses to the environment should be outlined in clear terms.
An electric plane
Figure 7.1. An electric plane (Pfeifer, 2019, para. 1).
  • Addressing sustainability in the aviation sector is not complete if the issue of security is not addressed. Kurnaz and Argin (2022) explain that governments, airports, and airlines around the world have taken collective and individual measures to fight terrorism and acts that pose threats to passengers, crew, airports, and the general public. However, cases such as suicide acts by pilots have been recorded in recent times. Such attacks also have a more devastating environmental impact, especially when a commercial jet is deliberately crashed on land or sea while its fuel tank is almost full. There is a need to find a way of effectively addressing these issues in the sector. When travelers, regulators, and airlines are constantly worried about safety and security, then their focus will shift from environmental sustainability to the more pressing issue of security. Future scholars should find a way of addressing these concerns to ensure that stakeholders can maintain their attention on enhancing environmental sustainability.

Statement of Reflection

Sustainability in the field of aviation is a field that I find to be interesting and highly informative. As the number of air travelers continues to increase, there is a growing pressure among airlines to not only lower their prices but also improve their efficiency to lower their costs. When I was conducting this study, I was amazed by the speed with which engineers are developing electric planes as an alternative to those that use gasoline. I was among those who believed that it might take longer for the global community to start witnessing the use of electric planes. I was strongly convinced that hydrogen jet fuels would be the solution to the problems associated with traditional jet fuels, especially their negative impact on the environment and fluctuating costs. However, I am now convinced that electric planes may be the solution, especially for smaller private planes.

When conducting this study, I believe my biggest strength was the ability to collect accurate data from secondary sources. Although the majority of the sources were published in Europe and North American countries, as was previously mentioned, I made an effort to ensure that as much information was collected from the local institution as possible. I relied on major aviation firms in the country, especially Emirates Airlines, to understand the current trends and practices of sustainability in the local aviation sector. I also took time to collect data from employees of the company to gain further insight into the issue being investigated. I developed an effective questionnaire to facilitate the collection of primary data from the respondents. I believe that the information I provided was as updated as it can be, and addresses the core issues of the study.

I would like to admit that there were areas that I consider weaknesses when conducting the research. One of the main weaknesses was personal bias when collecting data. I have always held the perception that Emirates Airlines is the best in the region and the world. Holding this belief meant that I considered strategies that the company uses to achieve sustainability are the industry’s best practices. I understand that there are other large and successful airlines in North America, Europe, and other parts of Asia that may be using superior strategies. I made an effort to ensure that this personal bias does not affect my objectiveness when collecting both primary and secondary data.


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Appendix: Survey Questionnaire

Dear participant, you have been chosen to take part in this study because we believe you have the information that can help address environmental challenges affecting the aviation sector. The study seeks to determine the framework and strategies that Emirates Airline is applying to address environmental sustainability concerns. Kindly note that this is purely for academics, and your personal information such as your name and address will not be made public in any way. Kindly answer the questions below to the best of your knowledge.

Part 1: Demographic Information

  1. What is your age? (Select one of the categories below)
    1. 18-24
    2. 25-33
    3. 34-44
    4. 45-55
    5. Above 55
  2. What is your nationality?
    1. Emirati
    2. Non-Emirati
  3. What is your gender?
    1. Female
    2. Male
    3. Other
  4. How long have you stayed in the country (For non-Emiratis only)?
    1. Less than 1 year
    2. 1-2 years
    3. 3-5 years
    4. 6-10 years
    5. Over 10 years

Part 2: Academic Qualifications and Experience

  1. What is your highest academic attainment?
    1. High school graduate
    2. College diploma
    3. Undergraduate degree
    4. Master’s degree
    5. Doctorate degree
  2. Do you have a professional post-graduate diploma in the field of aviation besides your primary degree?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  3. How long have you been working in the aviation sector?
    1. Less than 1 year
    2. 1-2 years
    3. 3-5 years
    4. 6-10 years
    5. Over 10 years
  4. How long have you been working with the Emirates Airline?
    1. Less than 1 year
    2. 1-2 years
    3. 3-5 years
    4. 6-10 years
    5. Over 10 years
  5. What is your current position within the firm?
    1. Senior management
    2. Mid-managerial position
    3. Non-managerial position

Part 3: Sustainability in Airport Operations at Emirates Airlines

  1. To what degree do you believe you understand the concept of sustainability in airport operations? Tick as appropriate
    1. I fully understand the concept.
    2. I am acquainted with the concept.
    3. I have limited understanding of the concept.
    4. I have never heard of the concept
  2. How strongly do you agree with the statement that aviation sector poses serious environmental threats if the current practices are sustained? Tick as appropriate
    1. Strongly Agree
    2. Agree
    3. Not Sure
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly Disagree
  3. To what degree do you agree with the statement that stakeholders in the aviation sector are committed to fighting emission in the aviation industry? Tick as appropriate.
    1. Strongly agree
    2. Agree
    3. Not sure
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly disagree
  4. Do you believe that the current environmental sustainability approaches in operations as exemplified in the Emirates Airlines framework are sufficient?
    1. Strongly Agree
    2. Agree
    3. Not sure
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly Disagree
  5. Kindly select the current environmental sustainability approaches that Emirates Airline is using to help reduce its emission of greenhouse gases.
    1. Focusing on engine efficiency
    2. Focusing on aerodynamic design
    3. Focusing on clean energy
    4. Focusing on improved operational planning
    5. Focusing on corporate social responsibility
  6. Do you believe that Emirates Airline’s sustainability strategies in the last decade match the best practices in the industry at a global level?
    1. Strongly Agree
    2. Agree
    3. Not sure
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly Disagree
  7. How successful has the implementation of operational environmental sustainability been at Emirates Airlines in the last decade?
    1. Highly successful
    2. Successful
    3. Not sure
    4. Barely successful
    5. Complete failure
  8. Kindly identify a specific operational activity at Emirates that is designed specifically to enhance environmental sustainability.
  9. Kindly recommend additional measures that can be successfully implemented by Emirates Airlines to address environmental sustainability in operation based on current research and evidence.

Thank you for taking part in this study.

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