Virgin Airlines and Climate Change Essay Example

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Key Attributes of Virgin Airlines

Virgin Airlines have successfully utilised branding to generate corporate personality perceptions, providing a unique blend of service attributes and elements that have enabled them to differentiate themselves from the competitors. Virgin has developed a ‘service brand’ that symbolises both individualistic quality of service and attributes. That is to say, the company is inclined to attract all customers, even those with limited international travel opportunities because of the values represented by the brand. The different qualities that the Virgin’s brand represents have become a valuable tool for marketing. One of the key brand value created by Virgin is offering quality service at all times. The Virgin Airlines ensures that the passengers come first before anything else. This can be evidenced by every aspect of its service. Simultaneously, Virgin is considered by the customers as a fun-loving, distinctive, and very innovative brand that exhibits qualities of integrity, intelligence and friendliness. Virgin offers a calming atmosphere for the passengers and the staffs are very engaging. Furthermore, the process of boarding is very simple and the flight attendants always make sure that the passengers are comfortable (Nigam, 2009). In Australia, Virgin Airlines was established in 2000 as a low-cost airline flying between Sydney and Brisbane. As mentioned by Virgin Australia (2016), the low-cost model of Virgin Blue was very successful since the rate of growth was faster than other Virgin companies. The airline repositioned and rebranded in 2012 from a low-cost carrier into a full-service airline, currently recognised as Virgin Australia.  Virgin Australia has continued growing and has consolidated its presence in the global market. A key attribute of Virgin Airlines is the efforts to address the company’s material environmental impacts by reducing carbon emissions and supporting the local communities.

Inter-Relationships between Virgin and Its Natural, Social and Economic Environments

oxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides as well as particulate matter to the atmosphere. Besides that, Virgin Airlines contribute to noise pollution and this is likely to increase in the future if no actions are taken. Virgin Airlines have come up with measures to reduce their annual carbon emissions by espousing an innovative and flexible organisational culture. sulphurAir transport has negative effects on the environment because it emits harmful gases like

With regard to social factors, social factors, Virgin airlines serve various nations with different social and cultural backgrounds. For that reason, the company has been forced to understand the cultural and social values of the destinations so that it can drive the business successfully. The cultural and social values include every aspect of knowing the destinations’ special needs and special arrangements that should be considered when serving a specific destination. For instance, when serving the Muslim nations the meal choices should be limited to non-pork based foods. More importantly, the company has demonstrated willingness to do business in a way that is in line with its values and those of its stakeholders.

In terms of the economical environment, the cost of fuel and the increased cost of living has placed Virgin Airlines in a very tight spot. The cost of travel has been influenced by the strong/weak home currency as well as global economic markets. The increasing cost of fuel has forced the company to transfer its costs to the customers; thus, it has become more expensive for people to travel by air. Additionally, the fluctuation of the oil prices have directly influenced the currency; thus, affecting the cost of air travel. Still, increased number of destinations has led to high profits for the airline. Even though the company is no longer depending on one market, unexpected fluctuations in the international and domestic economies have negatively influenced its operations.

Main Body

The Implications of Climate Change for Virgin

Climate change has enormously affected the Virgin Airlines since it has forced the company to come up with measures that would ensure its Carbon footprint is reduced tremendously. Climate change has forced the company show commitment in reducing its emissions and its environmental impact through an integrated approach of carbon offsetting, development of sustainable aviation biofuel and fuel efficiency. As mentioned by Virgin Australia (2017), fuel efficiency has become very important to the management of the company’s carbon footprint. The company has developed a sustainable aviation biofuel, which offers the airline an opportunity to mitigate its environmental impact. More importantly, climate change has forced the airline to formulate a carbon offsetting strategy, which currently is the airline’s sustainability strategy. The company has joined the Aviation Global Deal Group, which is a coalition of The Climate Group, aviation industry companies and airlines that wish to support the global efforts to the development of global policy framework that is economically and environmentally sustainable for reduction of carbon emissions. Climate change has also compelled the company to reduce its ground-based operations’ environmental impacts by examining means of reducing waste, resource consumption as well as emissions. As mentioned by Harvey (2017), climate change would lead to a significant increase in flight turbulence; thus, increasing the likelihood of flight anxiety or injury for future airline passengers. In addition, climate change could increase the maintenance and fuel costs for airlines. Furthermore, an increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could lead to changes in the jet stream, especially in the North Atlantic flight corridor: thus, resulting in the increase of air turbulence. Furthermore, climate change would lead to the increase of moisture; thus, high-altitude icing is inclined to increase with more intense cumulonimbus clouds (Johnston, 2016).

Impacts of Virgin on Climate Change

Air transport impact on climate change has increased tremendously; for instance, a flight from New York to London generates a higher carbon footprint as compared to the annual personal allowance required to ensure the climate is safe (ETA, 2015). Virgin Airlines’ carbon footprint is increased by the number of trips made to various destinations. As pointed out by Virgin (2016), over 99% of the airline direct emissions are sourced from the aircraft fuel use while the other remaining percentage comes from the supply chain. The airline contributes to stratospheric ozone reduction, which results in high regional pollution, surface UV radiation, as well as local pollution. In every flight, the aircraft engines of Virgin Airlines emit oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, water vapour, as well as particles. These particles normally comprise of soot and sulphate. Such emissions normally change the atmosphere’s chemical composition in different ways, both indirectly and directly. As pointed out byCapoccitti et al. (2010), although the ocean surface and plants absorb most of the CO2, a high percentage goes into the atmosphere, where they combine with other gases form a type of a lid across the globe. This lid reflects the heat that often escapes to space; thus, increasing global temperatures. When the Virgin aircraft fly at a higher attitude, they damage the ozone layer. A unique attribute of the aircraft emissions is that the majority of them are generated when the aircraft flies at high altitudes high in the atmosphere.

The Current Planning and Management Strategies and Policies of the Company and the Broader Industry With Respect To Climate Change and Sustainability

Virgin Airlines has engaged with the policy makers on the international and domestic level to formulate a strategy that would reduce green gas emissions and improve sustainability. At the local level, Virgin often engages with the government with regard to regulation and policy on domestic climate change. This can be evidenced by step taken by the Australian government to introduce a carbon price. At the international level, Virgin is an Aviation Global Deal (AGD) Group member, which supports the global sectoral approach in the reduction of aviation emissions at international level, through the emissions trading scheme. This scheme has been integrated into the post-Kyoto global agreement. As a member of the AGD Group, Virgin has contributed to the guidance and input offered to the key bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation and United Nations. Besides that, Virgin has invested enormously in energy efficiency and emissions reduction technologies, which have resulted in positive financial impact. Reduced fuel burn, for instance, by means of energy efficiency cut costs whereas introduction of the sustainable aviation biofuels has reduced the risk of oil prices volatility and promoted energy security. Virgin Airlines have incessantly implemented energy efficiency initiatives as an element of its standard business practice. Through the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, the company has engaged in efforts to accelerate the development of sustainable aviation biofuels (Virgin Australia, 2011). The company has demonstrated its willingness to reduce carbon emissions by partnering with various institutions such as the University of Queensland to advance the development of biofuels.

As mentioned by Virgin Australia Group (2015), the company has committed to reducing its waste by improving the recycling initiatives on the terminals, lounges, and aircraft. More importantly, Virgin is dedicated to addressing the impacts of climate change by combining carbon offsetting, energy reduction programs, and fuel efficiency programs. For instance, Virgin Australia has partnered with Air New Zealand to produce sustainable aviation fuel (200 million litres) by 2020. Through the carbon offsets program, Fly Carbon Neutral, Virgin Australia supports the New Leaf Carbon project through a partnership with Tasmanian Land Conservancy (Department of the Environment and Energy, 2016). In the broader industry, IATA’s Board of Governors decided in 2009 to adopt numerous ambitious targets with the aim of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry. The first target was carbon-neutral growth, which is a cap on the industry’s carbon dioxide emissions that will come into effect in 2020. The second target was to enhance the fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent year after year between 2009 and 2020. The last target was to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 (IATA, 2009). As mentioned by IATA (2009), Carbon-neutral growth is a key milestone on the aviation industry’s goal to move towards zero carbon future. This milestone will make sure that the net CO2 emissions in the aviation industry stop increasing, even with the increase in demand for air transport.

The Kyoto Protocol is a framework used to regulate the CO2 Emissions in the aviation sector and was adopted in 1997 during the Conference of Parties III (COP3) and enacted in 2005. The framework is very important to the aviation industry since Article 2(2) of the Kyoto Protocol specifies that developed countries should pursue reduction or limitation of emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) (Condon & Forsyth, 2015). Given that the primary instrument of the world’s climate change, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) does not govern the aviation sector, ICAO has been mandated to regulate this sector. The Kyoto Protocol places the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on developed economies because they are historically accountable for the present GHG emissions levels. Many airlines including Virgin have joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), an organisation that seeks to speed up the commercialisation of the developed sustainable aviation biofuels. All the SAFUG members are required to show commitment to accelerate the certification, development, as well as commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels (Condon & Forsyth, 2015). The company have started moving towards sustainability by training its employees on how to address the challenges of climate change. The company has established a fuel panel that would ensure the company saves a lot of jet fuel every year. Through research and development programs, the company is looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint (Virgin Australia, 2017).


In conclusion, this piece has demonstrated that Virgin Airlines is facing social, environmental, as well as economic challenges to put its CO2 emissions goals into practices. The stewardship of ICAO is needed to ensure that the aviation sector is moving towards a sustainable, Zero emissions future. Still, the company has shown some momentum and synergy in coming up with initiatives that would help reduce its carbon footprint. The growing awareness with regard to global climate change has inspired Virgin to find ways of reducing CO2 emissions. The company has continually engaged with the government with reference to regulation and policy on climate change.


Capoccitti, S., Khare, A. & Mildenberger, U., 2010. Aviation Industry — Mitigating Climate Change Impacts through Technology and Policy. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation , vol. 5, no. 2, pp.66-75.

Condon & Forsyth, 2015. Airlines and Climate Change: The Aviation Industry’s Emissions Problem. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

Department of the Environment and Energy, 2016. Carbon Neutral Stories — Virgin Australia. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

ETA, 2015. Air Travel’s Impact on Climate Change. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

Harvey, C., 2017. How climate change could make air travel even more unpleasant. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

IATA, 2009. Aviation and Climate Change Pathway to carbon-neutral growth in 2020. Geneva: The International Air Transport Association).

Johnston, I., 2016. Climate change set to increase turbulence and make it difficult for flights to take off, UN warns. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

Nigam, S., 2009. What makes Virgin America an outstanding airline brand? The delivery. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

Virgin Australia Group, 2015. Sustainability Report. Sustainability Report. Brisbane: Virgin Australia Group.

Virgin Australia, 2011. Carbon Disclosure Project 2011. Brisbane, Australia: Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia, 2016. Virgin Australia: The fastest growing Virgin Company in history. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

Virgin Australia, 2017. Environment. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].

Virgin, 2016. Change is in the Air for Virgin Atlantic. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «» [Accessed 7 July 2017].