Southwest Airlines is working with some of its corporate clients to launch a sustainable aviation fuel purchasing program, Southwest executives said in a sustainability town hall event this week.
Helen Giles, Southwest’s director of environmental sustainability, said that the airline is currently working with four customers to launch a partnership in shared investment in sustainable aviation fuel. Southwest has acquired a “limited volume” of the fuel, which currently has limited production capabilities and comes at a much higher cost compared with standard jet fuel, for use in 2021 and 2022. Participating companies can either pay cash or use unused UATP funds to cover the premium jet fuel cost. In exchange they receive credit towards the reduction in carbon emissions.
She said that Southwest is still looking to add corporate partners, but “space is limited” because of the small amount of fuel. It is our ultimate goal to encourage sustainable aviation fuel production so that it is more readily available and costs less.
Giles stated that SAF was essential to the decarbonization of aviation. Giles stated that there are not many SAF products available and the market is expensive. This will make it difficult to grow this market.
Other major U.S. carriers similarly have announced partnerships with corporate customers this year to support sustainable aviation fuel development and use, including Deloitte’s agreements with both Delta Air Lines and American Airlines and United Airlines’ Eco-Skies Alliance.
Southwest later this year also will launch a “green incentive program,” in which corporate partners can earn performance-based funds that they can use for sustainability program initiatives including charitable donations, carbon offsets or sustainable aviation fuel, Giles said. According to Giles, Southwest is currently in active discussions with several customers about the launch of this program.
Jesse Nikkel, senior sustainability consultant at Southwest, said that Southwest also has a reporting system to allow customers to view their carbon footprints. To provide carbon reporting, the system relies on actual flight data that measures fuel used and other parameters.
Nikkel said that while systems typically estimate carbon footprints using origin and destination data, they do not account for factors such as type of aircraft or nonstop flight.