Virgin America was the first domestic airline to list its carbon footprint according to internationally accepted standards on The Climate Registry. Virgin America established its baseline footprint in its first full year of operations, as a first step in ensuring its operations were transparent to the traveling public. The airline is committed to finding new ways to reduce its footprint per guest, even as it experiences substantial growth both in traffic and fleet.
The airline’s 2008 corporate footprint totaled 573,296 metric tons of CO2-equivalents, making Virgin America the lowest emitting carrier in the domestic industry based on RPM, and the second lowest when normalized to ASM. The number included emissions from a wide variety of sources including Scope 1 emissions, which includes those produced by the aircraft fleet, and Scope 2 emissions which captures emissions produced by purchased electricity for buildings by Company vehicles.
In 2009, Virgin America’s corporate footprint totaled 845,857 metric tons of CO2-e, making Virgin America the lowest emitting carrier in the domestic industry based on RPM, and the second lowest when normalized to ASM. This represented a .7% reduction in GHG emissions, a statistic the airline was proud to achieve despite the overall growth in its fleet and operations in 2009.
In 2010, Virgin America’s total corporate footprint totaled 971,180 metric tons of CO2-equivalents, making Virgin America the third lowest emitting carrier in the domestic industry based on RPM and the fourth lowest when normalized to ASM. It is important to note that Virgin America grew in terms of fleet and flights, by 14.35% on an ASM basis year-over-year, but only posted a .4% increase in CO2-e year-over-year. Virgin America competitors that posted lower emissions numbers on a seat-mile basis tended to have higher density seating configurations, decreasing their overall numbers.
How We Report Emissions:
The Climate Registry is a nonprofit collaboration among North American states, provinces, territories and Native Sovereign Nations that sets consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify and publicly report GHG emissions into a single registry. The Climate Registry provides a credible and consistent standard through which companies like Virgin America can report emissions.
How We Calculate Emissions:
Virgin America compares emissions on an Available Seat Mile (ASM) basis. ASMs are the product of multiplying the number of seats on an aircraft by distance flown. For example, a Virgin America Airbus A320 aircraft with 149 seats that flies 700 miles (SFO-SEA) will have 104,300 available seat miles [149 seats x 700 miles = 104,300]. Available seat miles are the industry’s way of normalizing financial performance, so that an “apples to apples” comparison can be made, regardless of an individual airline’s fleet size or route structure.
Another statistic used in the airline industry is Revenue Passenger Miles (RPMs). Similar to ASMs, revenue passenger miles are the product of a flight’s occupied seats and the distance flown in miles.
Virgin America collected ASM, RPM and fuel consumption data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics Web site. All airlines are required to report their monthly fuel consumption and passenger load data to the Department of Transportation, which makes these figures publicly available.
Virgin America has converted their self–report fuel consumption data into CO2 emissions using the multiplier recognized by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – 3.16 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of fuel burned. Virgin America remains proud to be one of the lowest emitting carriers in the domestic industry based on RPM, and among the lowest when normalized to ASM.