Google Flights launches sophisticated new feature to help air travellers reduce carbon footprint and CO2 emissions

Today, Google Flights launched a game-changing new feature that will now help air travellers reduce their carbon footprint by producing a CO2 emissions reports next to every flight in the global search results as part of the Google’s company-wide bid to “help one billion people make more sustainable choices by 2022”.

Tackling CO2 Sustainability

The aviation industry has been fraught with issues of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions sustainability over the last decade, with scientific research continually proving the negative effects of CO2, but it has also seen a remarkable decrease in CO2 emissions since 2020, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). To maintain the benefits the industry has seen, the new feature will be a huge step towards producing a more carbon conscious aviation industry and, thus, hopefully, a more environmentally-friendly sector. This implementation comes at a critical time as we risk going back to levels of CO2 emission prior to the pandemic that drastically harmed the planet if we do not hinder CO2 emissions produced from rising demand of flights post-lockdown after lifting of restrictions.

showing CO2 carbon footprint
Image showing graphical representation of CO2 footprint

Google is setting precedence by providing passengers better information about their carbon footprint and encouraging airlines and other stakeholders to get involved and help achieve the climate activists’ end goal. Now that travellers can make better decisions, choosing flights that have a better impact on the environment, we will see a more decisive and eco-friendly consumer aviation market.

“The big change here is that we’re making this a prominent feature, right next to price and duration, you get emissions. It’s not something you have to go hunt for.” says James Byers, Senior Product Manager, Google Flights. It’s easy, just click “Sort By CO2 emissions.” he added further.

How CO2 Emissions is Calculated

The feature shows the amount of CO2 emissions in tonnes and the level of emissions, whether it increases or reduces,  in percentage and flights with significantly lower emissions relative to the average will be in green font highlighting the environmentally friendly option.

The feature goes beyond being informative with the algorithm designed in a sophisticated way so that it takes into consideration location of the passenger and the aircraft type so it intricately calculates how it all effects CO2 emissions.

“These emissions estimates are flight specific as well as seat-specific. For instance, newer  aircrafts are generally less-polluting than older aircrafts, and emissions increase for premium economy and first-class seats because they take up more space and account for a larger share of total emissions,” explains Richard Holden, Google’s VP of Travel Products.

Showing Google Flights information
Image showing how the new carbon emissions tracker feature will work © Courtesy of Google

How CO2 Emissions Data is Gathered

Google Flights uses over 300 partners, airlines, online travel agencies and aggregators to display flight information including flight options, prices, and schedules and is combining data from the European Environmental Agency (EEA) with the flight-specific information from airlines such as aircraft type, fuel usage data, trip distance, and the number of seats in each seating class.

All is moving forward within the aviation industry, though this data transparency hasn’t been easy to achieve and has taken a significant amount of hard work and pressure from European regulators, cooperation from airlines, and support from prominent public figures such as Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

CO2 Emissions Data Vigilance

Of course, like with all information, you have to be wary and consider how data is collected and think about the purpose and source of data, James Byers, Senior Product Manager, Google Flights, advises, “the goal is anyone using the feature should be able to answer the question ‘What were the emissions of a given flight?’, with a clear understanding of how it works, what the sources of data are, and how it changes overtime”.

This is exciting news for Travel Radar. What do you think of this new feature? Will you be using it to help make your flight decisions? Will you go lower cost or lower carbon? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @thetravelradar. You can read more about how the European Aviation industry aims to have zero carbon by 2050 here.

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Giselle Tadman
Giselle Tadman
Assistant Editor and Aviation Correspondent: Giselle is an experienced journalist and editor with a broad background in writing and editing in various copy. With a passion for technology, health, and education, she is building her aviation repertoire with her dedication to Travel Radar.

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