A ‘business imperative’: Delta outlines a roadmap for more sustainable travel


From finding sustainable aviation fuels and more efficient airplanes to reducing single-use plastics and promoting a net-zero supply chain, Delta has announced its roadmap to more sustainable travel and net-zero emissions by 2050. The strategy and goals are inspired by what is good for the planet, communities and people of Delta and driven by the recognition that sustainability is a business imperative.

Pam Fletcher, Delta’s chief sustainability officer, first shared the strategy with the airline’s more than 90,000 employees in late February. It focuses on two pillars: embedding sustainability in everything the airline does and eliminating the company’s climate impact through flying.

“Delta people are known for doing difficult things well,” Fletcher said in an email to all employees on Feb. 28. “As we reshape the fundamentals of aviation, we are as committed to immediate progress as we are to investing wisely in disruption solutions.”

INTERACTIVE | way to sustainability

Reducing fossil fuels and moving towards Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) are at the forefront of Fletcher’s mid-term strategy. After all, the fuel that powers jets accounts for around 98% of an airline’s carbon footprint.

Delta’s sustainability strategy also considers short-term goals, including minimizing Delta’s impact from single-use plastics, transitioning to electric ground handling equipment, and encouraging suppliers in its supply chain to implement their own sustainability plans.

Fletcher, a well-known leader in the transportation sector, joined Delta in 2022. Their outlined sustainability strategy builds on the company’s continuous advances and reaffirms its commitment to setting targets aligned and informed on scientific evidence and proven metrics to ensure accountability and transparency.

Delta has outlined ambitious goals for 2050 as well as a series of incremental milestones to measure progress along that journey.

“Thanks to the work of Delta’s Carbon Council, we’ve already seen significant results, like reducing single-use plastic onboard by almost five million pounds a year and saving 10 million gallons of fuel last year,” Fletcher said. “Our foundation is strong. Now we step on the gas.”


Starting with the most visible aspects of Delta’s business, Fletcher shared what the airline is like Embedding sustainability in everything Delta does by focusing on three key areas:

  • ​​​​​​The travel experience. From curb to damage reporting, the airline is doubling down to eliminate single-use plastic as close as possible while diverting waste from landfills. For example, Mexican brand Someone Somewhere’s handmade amenity kits eliminate five single-use plastic items on board, reducing Delta’s annual plastic use by up to 90,000 pounds. Ongoing efforts also include partnering with airports, regulators and others to increase investment in composting and recycling while identifying more sustainable products that improve customer experiences.

From 2022




Saving £4.9m in single-use plastic

Minimize single-use plastics on board

65% avoidance of waste from landfill*

100% avoidance of waste from landfill*

*Regarding our customers’ travel experience on board and at the airport; other flight operations (e.g. maintenance) are excluded.

  • supply chain. Delta is driving industry-wide transformation by encouraging its thousands of vendors to create their own path to net zero. It is the first US airline to work with EcoVadis, a provider of corporate sustainability ratings, to increase transparency of its supply chain processes and ensure supplier values ​​and ethics align with Delta’s.

From 2022




50+% of the largest providers in EcoVadis

100% of the preferred providers in the CO2 tracking system

100% of preferred providers with net zero plans

100% Net Zero Supply Chain

  • Ground Operations and Facilities. Electrification of Delta’s ground equipment is in full swing, including nearly 100 percent electrification of Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Meanwhile, Delta incorporates LEED standards into its building renovations and offers more sustainable materials for its offices and cafeterias.

From 2022




25% GSE electrified; Nearly 100% electric baggage haulers and belt loaders in BOS & SLC

50% GSE** electrified;
5 hubs at 100% core fleet*

100% GSE** electrified at nodes and powered by renewable energy

100% net zero operation

*The core fleet consists of baggage tugs, belt loaders and aircraft tugs
**All eligible core and critical fleets required to turn an aircraft


While high quality carbon offsets have historically been seen as a valuable tool, today Delta’s sustainability vision is much broader and focused on promoting sustainable solutions that can decarbonize the industry with the urgency it deserves. Fletcher outlined a long-term decarbonization strategy that it focuses on remove the company’s climate impact from flying by investing in:

  • ​​​​Efficient flight operations. Delta will continue to reduce fuel burn, promote more efficient air traffic control coordination, and work with partners like Aero Design Labs to develop new technologies to reduce fuel burn. Through a collaboration with MIT, the airline is also studying contrails, which trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere.

From 2022




Carbon Council Action Saved More Than 10 Million Gallons Of Fuel; started cooperation with MIT Contrails

Savings of 45 million gallons or 1% in fuel consumption from operational improvements

3% fuel savings in operationvalued at 1.1 billion cumulative gallons over 2019;

80% reduction in addressable heating contrails*

5% fuel savings in operation;

100% reduction in addressable warming contrails*

*Subject to the successful completion of the MIT contrail study and provided that contrail avoidance can be accomplished in a manner consistent with Delta’s operational, economic and environmental objectives
†Compared to 2019

  • Clean fuel. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is the most promising lever known today to accelerate progress towards a net-zero future – it can use existing fuel infrastructure to get it to airports and is safe to use in current aircraft engines become. Unfortunately, today there is not enough SAF to fuel the size of an airline Delta for a single day. Delta is working to increase demand, attract investment and incentivize market scaling so all airlines have access to more sustainable fuels. To date, the company has secured 200 million gallons of SAF offtakes and approximately 50 corporate customers have signed their sustainable fuel agreements.

From 2022




Commitment to 200 million gallons of SAF purchases; signed approx. 50 SAF agreements for corporate customers

10% SAF usage by the end of 2030

35% SAF usage

95+% SAF

  • Revolutionary Fleet. While a fully sustainable long-haul aircraft has yet to be invented, Delta – with its world-class technical expertise and financial investments – is uniquely positioned to work with aviation innovators to pave the way for the next century of aviation. Delta’s partnership with Airbus, for example, focuses on the potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft. Its electric flight effort with partner Joby Aviation to provide home-to-airport transportation services reflects the breakthrough innovation needed to revolutionize the industry.

From 2022




Partnership with Airbus ZEROe to research hydrogen propulsion

10+% fuel efficiency gains;

5 partnerships with revolutionary tech players

20+% fuel efficiency gains;

First operation of revolutionary mainline technology

More than 40% fuel efficiency gains;

25% of the fleet consists of revolutionary aircraft

Compared to 2019

The scale of this challenge means no single company can tackle it alone, Fletcher noted. Delta employees, partners, industry stakeholders, regulators and others must work together to advance environmentally friendly programs and services – while improving the travel experience. The vital “spirit of collaboration” will be on display in the Delta Sustainable Skies Lab, which will show progress while inspiring the next generation of innovation, she said.

“I’m looking forward to our upcoming journey,” Fletcher said. “There is no better team in the world to drive the more sustainable future of flying.”

Statements contained herein that are not historical facts, including statements regarding our expectations and objectives, should be considered “forward-looking statements” under the federal securities laws and involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially Expectations differ and goals. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those described in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We assume no obligation to update any forward-looking statement, except as required by law.

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