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Increase air fares to save planet, says Dubai Airports CEO

Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths Dubai Airports
Paul Griffiths: "I would rather have a clear conscience and tell my grandchildren we did everything we could to make aviation sustainable"
  • Cost in line with inflation
  • Airport at net zero in a decade
  • DXB topped 2019 emissions list

Adding 20 percent to the price of an airline ticket to fuel the aviation industry’s sustainability charge will be money well spent in order to keep a “clear conscience” on the climate threat, according to the CEO of Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths.

Giving a keynote address at Dubai Airshow on Tuesday morning, Griffiths said the airport’s journey towards net zero can be achieved within “single-digit” years.

But that would involve incorporating the cost of sustainability across the entire value chain – including air fares.

“I would rather have a clear conscience and tell my grandchildren we did everything we could to make aviation sustainable. And if the cost of air travel has to go up, that needs to be a factor,” he said.

However, he said the increase would not be “much more than the natural rate of inflation” and added: “If it means air tickets in five years time are 10 or 20 percent more expensive, then the value chain will erode that margin I think at the time.”

A passenger using a smartgate at DXB's terminal one. The airport handled 41.6 million passengers in the first half of 2023Dubai Airports
Dubai International Airport handled 41.6 million passengers in the first half of 2023

In 2019, Dubai International Airport’s (DXB) 83 million passengers emitted 16.65 million metric tonnes of CO2 – the highest total of any airport in the world, according to Statista.

The airport handled 41.6 million passengers in the first half of 2023, surpassing 2019 levels in the same period.

“I think we can get pretty close (to net zero) and I don’t think it’ll take us anything like 20 years, because we’re in the very fortunate position that things that don’t leave the ground are far more easy to decarbonise than aeroplanes,” said Griffiths.

Dubai is set to host the Cop28 climate change summit later this month at Expo City, starting on November 30.

Griffiths revealed various sustainability measures adopted by the airport include converting all ground vehicles to clean energy, buses powered by hydrogen, electric push-back tractors and increasing the rooftop solar capacity to 43 megawatts.

“There is a way of getting airports to carbon neutral pretty quickly and I’m hoping we’ll do it in single-digit years rather than double-digit years,” said Griffiths.

In 2022 aviation accounted for two percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, having grown faster in recent decades than rail, road or shipping, according to the International Air Travel Association (Iata). 

Emissions in 2022 reached almost 800 million tonnes of CO2, about 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels. 

At the 77th Iata AGM in Boston in 2021, a resolution was passed by member airlines committing them to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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