There is immediate crisis - like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. Then there is the slow-burning kind threatening to literally cook us alive down the road. As aviation has begun to bounce back from two years of unrelenting restrictions, the industry can now focus on rebuilding and its greatest challenge yet - making air travel sustainable.

On Wednesday, Finnair announced it is now offering its customers the option to offset their journey with a service that combines sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and trusted climate projects. The new service allows travelers to calculate their contribution to CO2 emissions via a platform powered by climate action digital tool provider Chooose.

They can then decide to offset their journey through a combination of SAF and carbon offset projects that reduce, capture, or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. The price will depend on the ratio between the two options. Eveliina Huurre, Senior Vice President Sustainability for Finnair, commented,

“Both Finnair and our customers are keen to reduce the CO2 footprint of air travel, and we want to offer our customers a simple and transparent way to do this. Our service combines two important tools, offsets and SAF, which both are needed to reach carbon neutrality in aviation.”

The airline is offering customers a combination of SAF and climate projects to offset their journeys. Photo: Finnair

Stimulating SAF supply and demand

In its announcement, the Finnish flag carrier noted that the insistent high cost of sustainable aviation fuel is limiting airlines' ability to use it. As such, stimulating supply and demand through voluntary contribution projects like Finnair's latest initiative is of great importance to get the price down to a level where the emission-reducing capacities of SAF can actually make a dent in aviation's climate impact.

Other airlines, such as partner carriers Air France and KLM, have removed the voluntary aspect. They have instead opted to raise ticket prices to cover the on average 1% SAF that will power flights out of the carriers' main hubs going forward.

Air France-KLM french flag
Air France-KLM has opted to add the cost for SAF directly to ticket prices. Photo: Getty Images

The offset conundrum

Offsets are a popular means for airlines and other industries to try and mitigate operational emissions. However, they are controversial, as they allow businesses to keep polluting while paying money to (hopefully) reduce the pollution somewhere else and in the future. Many projects, such as tree planting, will take many years to come to fruition.

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On occasion, projects have even created more social harm than good, including accounts of land grabbing. Lately, accreditation has become stricter. Finnair promises the available schemes are certified by internationally recognized carbon certification standards such as the VCS, the Gold Standard, American Carbon Registry, and Climate Action Reserve.

Finnair has some of the more ambitious climate targets in the airline industry. The carrier aims to halve emissions by 2025 and reach climate neutrality by 2045. In addition to increasing the use of SAF and reliable carbon offsetting, the airline intends to achieve its first goal through aircraft weight reduction and fuel-efficient flying.

Are you offsetting your emissions from flying? Why or why not? Leave a comment in the section below and share your thoughts.

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