Sustainability in the Air
Sustainability In The Air
Why Delta’s collaborative approach shows the roadmap to cleaner skies

Why Delta’s collaborative approach shows the roadmap to cleaner skies

From the archives: A conversation with Amelia DeLuca, Delta Air Lines’ Chief Sustainability Officer.

Welcome to the holiday edition of Sustainability in the Air, the world’s #1 podcast on sustainable aviation hosted by SimpliFlying CEO Shashank Nigam. Over the next couple of weeks, we will bring to you some of the finest conversations from our archives and add context based on the latest updates from the companies featured.

Following up our first holiday special with Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines is our conversation with Amelia DeLuca, Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer. Since our episode with Delta—recorded about six months ago—they’ve made a number of major announcements that are worth noting, not least of them being Amelia’s elevation to her new role as Chief Sustainability Officer.

Here are the key highlights of the conversation:

  • Delta’s sustainability achievements and investments in 2023 (0:31)

  • Using NPS data to drive sustainable solutions (3:41)

  • Pursuing sustainability beyond just its environmental aspect (9:10)

  • Lessons from The Sustainable Flight Challenge (12:36)

  • Challenges and scaling up of sustainable aviation fuel (20:56)

  • Contrail reduction study with MIT (24:37)

  • The Delta Sustainable Skies Lab (26:53)

  • Amelia’s journey into sustainability (33:21)

  • Rapid Fire! (39:50)

Keep reading for a quick overview of the episode.

1. Recent developments

Delta is a founding member of Americans for Clean Aviation Fuels (ACAF), a coalition including sectors from aviation to agribusiness, to promote sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and their economic benefits. The airline is also testing environmentally friendly paper cups on select flights as part of its plan to cut plastic use.

Furthering its commitment, Delta has been involved in forming the Minnesota SAF Hub, a key initiative in the U.S. for scaling up SAF, in partnership with significant entities like Bank of America and Ecolab. Additionally, Delta is collaborating with Boeing and NASA on the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, developing the X-66A aircraft with a fuel-efficient design that could reduce fuel consumption and emissions significantly.

2. Why collaboration is essential

DeLuca’s path towards sustainability at Delta, which began amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights the critical need for collaborative efforts within the aviation industry for effective sustainability. Delta’s approach includes leveraging customer insights to make environmentally friendly changes, such as reducing plastic usage, and driving innovation through initiatives like their Sustainable Skies Lab. Emphasising cooperation over competition, Delta’s efforts involve partnerships with energy sectors and other airlines for a unified approach to sustainability.

3. Airline Travellers’ Growing Concern for Environmental Responsibility

Delta’s commitment to sustainability resonates strongly with passengers, particularly younger, eco-conscious ones. The airline’s dedication to environmental stewardship has led to enhanced brand perception and loyalty among this key demographic, demonstrating the increasing value passengers place on airlines’ ecological actions.

4. Thinking Beyond Environmental Impact

Delta’s sustainability ethos extends beyond environmental concerns, encompassing social responsibility. This is reflected in their initiatives like the partnership with Someone Somewhere, which integrates sustainability with supporting local communities and championing diversity in suppliers.

5. Scaling Up Sustainable Aviation Fuel 

Delta’s commitment to the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition, with a target of 10% SAF usage by 2030, underscores the urgency to expand SAF production. Strategies include motivating large energy firms and smaller innovators, utilising governmental incentives, and forming partnerships with corporate clients to foster investment in SAF.

6. Tackling the Climate Impact of Airplane Contrails

In collaboration with MIT, Delta is exploring innovative ways to lessen the environmental impact of airplane contrails, such as adjusting flight altitudes. Their research, aimed at reducing aviation’s climate footprint, will be shared openly for the benefit of the entire industry.

7. Delta’s Pioneering Lab for Advancing Sustainable Air Travel

The Sustainable Skies Lab, launched by Delta in early 2023, is a hub for promoting cutting-edge sustainable air travel. Its objectives include nurturing internal innovation, collaborating with industry disruptors, experimenting with new operational technologies, and providing a platform for showcasing future sustainable travel solutions in an interactive Ideation Studio.

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‘Sustainability in the Air’ is the world’s leading podcast dedicated to sustainable aviation. Through in-depth conversations with top aviation leaders, we break through the clutter and provide a clear roadmap for a net-zero future.

Sustainability in the Air
Sustainability In The Air
Every week, Shashank Nigam, the CEO of SimpliFlying, talks to airline, airport, travel and technology executives to help make sense of the many paths to net zero, for an industry that is one of the hardest to decarbonize.
Whether you're a frequent flier, an airline executive or just love travelling, if you care about sustainable global travel, then welcome aboard.