Aviation travel – the sustainability dilemma

Tourism is the world’s largest and fastest growing industry which underwent development during the last decades. One of the most visible changes is the improvement of the aviation industry (May, 2002). The number of international tourist arrivals increased from 25 million to 664 million between 1950 and 1999, corresponding to an average annual growth rate of 7% (WTO, 2000). International tourism is closely linked to the expansion of air travel and experienced an increase over the same period (May, 2002). Furthermore, there is a growing tendency among airlines to establish global alliances with partners including hotel groups, car rental companies and other services and the passengers are encouraged to join frequent flyer programmes with rewards according to the distance they travelled (Hanlon, 1999).

Despite this development, the aviation industry faces challenges. The most recent concern over aviation travel relates to the effect on the global climate (Durmaz, 2007). The aviation industry is growing and this inevitably will lead to an increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, the main green house gas.

My paper will discuss the sustainability dilemma of the aviation industry by using the example of Scandinavian Airlines. Therefore, my research question is: How does the aviation industry implement sustainable development? The case of Scandinavian Airlines.


  • Durmaz, V. (2007) Sustainable Development and Air Transportation. Paper presented at the 34th annual NBEA (Northeast Business & Economics Association) conference, November 2007, Central Connecticut State University Connecticut.
  • Freestone, R. (2009) Planning, Sustainability and Airport-Led Urban Development, International Planning Studies, 14, 2, 161-176.
  • Hanlon, P. (1999) Global Airlines: Competition in a Transnational Industry, 2nd edn. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.
  • Lynes, J. K. and Dredge, D. (2006) Going Green: Motivations for Environmental Commitment in the Airline Industry. A Case Study of Scandinavian Airlines, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 14, 2, 116-138.
  • May, M. (2002) The Growth of Tourism and Air Travel in Relation to Ecological Sustainability, International Journal of Tourism Research, 4, 145-150.
  • Sommerville, H. (2004) Travel, tourism and the environmental challenges, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 5, 1, 65-71.
  • WTO, 2000, Tourism Highlights 2000, 2nd edn. World Tourism Organization: Madrid.
  • http://www.sasgroup.net/SASGroup/default.asp (accessed 30 September 2010)

2 Responses to “Aviation travel – the sustainability dilemma”

  1. Pius Binder says:

    Do you really think it is possible to be sustainable in the airline sector;the transportation sector with the most CO2 emissions after rockets 🙂

  2. Livia Cravos says:

    The change of aviation traveling is very interesting.
    Just some years ago only the rich ones could buy tickets and nowadays we have low-cost airlines, so that everybody gets the chance to travel by plane.

    In terms of sustainability of the aviation industry…well, first of all I would like to say, that everybody is always talking about it, but nobody does nothing.
    Second, I think it will take the industry some more years to find a solution.
    The problem is, that the sustainable versions (for example the natural fuel) are often, or let’s say, nearly always very expensive. And no company likes it to pay a lot of money.

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