Carbon Offset Options Expand

Charter providers now make it simple for you to fly sustainably.

For many years, carbon offsets represented little more than a token gesture by business aviation users and providers. Now, though, they have become a standard feature of charter offerings, with offset purchasing options as available as catering. 

Carbon credits, or offsets, are certificates corresponding to the avoidance or removal of one metric ton of CO2emissions from the atmosphere. They are purchased through entities that validate and certify qualifying projects, and currently cost about $8.25 per unit. According to NetJets’ estimates, carbon offsets per flight hour cost about $26 for a Phenom 300, $42 for a Challenger 350, and $69 for a Bombardier Global 6000.

The long sustainability awakening has been in the works since at least 2007, when charter broker Stratos Jet in Orlando, Florida, offered an “Offset Your Jet” campaign, matching its customers’ donations for credits purchased through TerraPass—among the first carbon-offset validation organizations. A decade later, in 2017, Skyway Air Taxi in Manassas, Virginia, claimed to be the first U.S. carbon-neutral operator, through carbon-offset credits acquired from Forest Green, a forest-restoration company. 

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To play its part in achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of a net-zero world in 2050, the industry will need more than just sustainable fuel.

In 2019, Washington, D.C.–based broker Paramount Business Jets put an open-source carbon- credit calculator on its website, enabling anyone to quantify the carbon created on a flight, based on aircraft type and flight time, and buy credits directly from offset validation organizations. 

This year, a new sustainability rating organization, 4Air—focused exclusively on supplying credits to the business aviation community—debuted. Offering a four-tier program that enables brokers, operators, flight departments, and business jet travelers to meet or go beyond carbon neutrality for their flight activity, 4Air has already formally teamed with several major lift providers.

Carbon-offset-credit revenues fund programs and projects verified to measurably lower consumption of non-renewable resources, such as wind, solar, biodegradable, and renewable- resource projects, and sustainable enterprises that can replace unsustainable practices in underdeveloped regions. Each validation organization supports a limited number and type of projects. Some access providers are allied with one entity while others enable you to have a choice about which sustainability initiatives to support.

The upshot: if you’re concerned about business aviation’s environmental impact, it’s easy to fly while fulfilling whatever social responsibility you may feel that requires. (While you’re at it, you can inquire about your provider’s use of sustainable aviation fuel.)

Going Beyond Offset Options

Though offset options are fairly ubiquitous, some providers are going beyond in advancing the cause of countering their operations’ environmental footprints. U.K. global charter brokerage Air Charter Service (ACS) this year updated its optional Carbon Offsetting Contribution program, which now adds 0.5 percent of the charter price to achieve a carbon-neutral flight. At the end of each quarter, ACS will estimate the fleet’s total carbon emissions against purchased offsets and make up the difference, purchasing carbon credits via the CTX exchange, whose current projects include replacing wood-burning stoves with more efficient ones in more than half a million homes and 1,000 institutions while creating more than 2,000 jobs.

The Flexjet fractional program, a division of Cleveland’s Directional Aviation, announced that its flight operations in the U.S. and Europe were carbon-neutral and carbon-negative, respectively, as of this year, at no charge to customers, through credits purchased from 4Air. Sister jet card company Sentient Jet also reached carbon and emissions neutrality this year through 4Air.

Meanwhile, Directional’s on-demand charter branch, PrivateFly, announced a Level 2 partnership with 4Air. Level 2 commits the company to being not simply carbon neutral but emissions neutral as well, by funding a 300 percent carbon-offset program. CO2 emissions, notes PrivateFly in explaining its robust sustainability efforts, represent only one-third of the environmental impact of flying. The offset program will also apply to flights the broker books on non–Directional fleet aircraft. 

Omaha, Nebraska–based jet card fleet operator Jet Linx partnered with 4Air, too, launching the optional Carbon Neutral Program for More Sustainable Future, which allows clients to easily buy 4Air Level 1 (carbon neutrality) credits for any of their flights.

NetJets, the Columbus, Ohio–headquartered operator of the world’s largest business jet fleet, says its European operations have been carbon neutral since 2012 and announced its own expanded global sustainability program last fall. [See “A New World of Access Options.”—Ed.]

Meanwhile, Maltese global block-charter program operator VistaJet announced this year that it will achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 through a combination of offset options for customers— for example, paying extra for the costs of sustainable aviation fuel—and its own contributions to offset programs funding forest preservation, among other sustainability projects. More than 80 percent of VistaJet customers participate in the offsetting program, says founder and CEO Thomas Flohr. 

In the future, carbon consciousness may also affect ground-handling choices. In March, Fast Air Jet Centre, an FBO in Winnipeg, Canada, reported that its operations achieved carbon neutrality this year, staking a claim as the first such facility in the nation. 

Whatever form they take, offset initiatives appear here to stay. Today, bizav offset pioneer Stratos Jet is still in partnership with TerraPass, and its optional Eco-Jet Charter, included with all charter quotes, contains a report detailing the trip’s potential carbon emissions. The report also notes the cost and option to buy carbon-offset credits, which equate to about 1 percent of the flight costs, the company says.