Carbon Offset medium flight

Carbon Calculation Flying

To keep things simple we have divided the flights in three categories: short, medium, and long flights. The numbers are based on the following assumptions

  • Direct travel (no stop)
  • Return flight
  • 1 suitcase and 1 carry on

Short Flight (< 2 hours)

A short flight is for example from Amsterdam to Barcelona (0.39 ton) ; or from Bali to Singapore (0.53 ton).
Airplanes are least efficient during take-off, so short flights have a relative large impact.
For our calculations we have taken the average of a few typical flights to come to a reliable number.

Medium Flight ( 2-7 hours)

A medium distance flight is for example from London to Marrakesh (0.71 ton).
For these flights it can be difficult to find suitable alternatives.
If you travel make sure to take a direct flight, this can save up to 30% of your emissions.

Long Flight (> 7 hours)

Long flights are often trans-Atlantic or between continents. For example a flight from Berlin to Cape town is responsible for 2.91 ton, the equivalent of showering 1400 times for ten minutes.

The numbers

Calculating CO2 emissions from airplanes is not easy, as there are many factors that play an important role. Ranging from the direct emissions from the engines, to the extra effect that has at high altitudes, and the occupancy of the plane itself. In our calculations we have tried to take the average of all the reliable sources we could find, and take into factors like Radiative Forcing.

Official numbers

You will find some of official numbers published by the UK (DEFRA). You can clearly see how much higher the emissions per kilometer are for short flights (0.267 compared to 0.151).

Definitions Emission factors (kg CO2e/pkm)
Domestic / regional Inside UK 0.26744
Small-haul Europe or < 3700 km 0.15845
Long-haul To non-European destinations of > 3700 km 0.15119

Economy versus Business class

The more people fit in one plane, the lower the CO2 emissions per person. This is the reason that if you travel business class, you are responsible for much more pollution compared to economy class. For a short-flight an economy class passenger is responsible for 0,15119 KG CO2, where business quickly goes up to 0,60473 and above. The more space you have, the lease people fit on the plane. With the recent development of ‘super luxury travel’ one person can emit the equivalent of 10 people.

If you calculate this for a flight from Amsterdam to Cape town (19373 km) , you get the following numbers:

  • Economy Class: 2929 KG of CO2
  • First Class: 11715 KG of CO2!

The distance matters

Of course the further you fly, the more CO2 is produced. However, airplanes are much more efficient over longer distances. This makes short haul flights particular harmful. Especially since there are many suitable alternatives available. The graph below is taken from a paper published by Dr Christian N. Jardine, named “Calculating The Carbon Dioxide Emissions Of Flights“. You can see the especially for flights below 4000 km the pollution per KM is high.

Airplane emissions per km