To mark Earth Day, Bayram Annakov, founder and chief executive of App In The Air, explains how technology will be key to a sustainable return to travel after the COVID-19 pandemic
Running a tech company that was born to meet the needs of the million-mile traveller, and collaborating as we do with the airline and airports that serve them, the environmental implications of aviation are never far from my mind.
And this is not just true on Earth Day, as it is today, but actually all year round.
There is an undeniable conflict between the love of travel and respect for the environment, and the relationship between aviation and environmentalism is a complicated and emotive one.
I was first introduced to the Swedish term Flygskam (which literally translates as flight shame) by a fellow student when I was studying at Singularity University, and it set me thinking about how it might be possible to create a ‘carbon neutral traveller’.
With a global audience of six million travellers, I am acutely aware that our users contribute to the problem and, because flying is often the only practical option available and air travel is not going anywhere, we need to leverage the unique opportunity that we have to make this community more aware of the environmental impact that their flights have, and with this awareness can come action and a step change.
The significant advantage that technology companies have is to be easily able to use data and functionality to identify opportunities and create solutions that will help us to bring travellers closer to carbon neutrality in an easy and engaging way.
At App In The Air we are constantly looking at ways to innovate and simplify the process of offsetting and making more sustainable choices for our community of busy and often time-poor frequent fliers.
By streamlining processes and making it simple for consumers to make better and more responsible purchasing decisions, we can help to counter much of their impact.
Among our initiatives, we have created an in-app filter that allows our users to sort their flight searches by estimated carbon emissions, as well as by times and price; and we are working on similar emissions filters for hotel bookings too.
Estimating a traveller’s carbon impact, based on factors such as the distance flown, the aircraft model, and the passenger’s cabin class, our goal is to create more sustainably minded flyers.
We automatically use this flight history to calculate users’ personal carbon footprints and, leveraging gamification capabilities within the app, we incentivise our community to offset the carbon generated by their purchases.
We are exploring a future Apple Watch functionality that will send our users eco-friendly tips when they’re travelling, and many of the tips that our users share with the community focus on where and how travellers can make more environmentally sound choices.
As sustainable travel is something that I am personally very passionate about, we have also put our money where our mouth is, and pledged to plant a tree for every flight that is booked through the app, via our partnership with One Tree Planted.
I am very proud that, to date, we have planted almost 15,500 trees and counting, and we are intending to hit the one million tree mark within the next three years.
I join millions around the world, eagerly waiting for the travel and aviation industry’s restart.
With an ever more sustainable focus, the future of our sector will be bright, and I am excited to be part of the technological revolution that is moving travellers closer to carbon neutrality.