When evaluating emission reduction opportunities at airports, aircraft usually get the most attention, but running an on-time airline also requires a reliable fleet of ground support vehicles. Such vehicles are typically used to transport baggage, taxi aircraft to and from the terminal and refuel the aircraft.
Alaska Airlines and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport partnered to replace fossil-fuel-powered ground vehicles, including belt loaders and baggage tugs, with electric vehicles. This multi-million-dollar investment improved air quality, eliminating around 2,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
In recent years, many airports have begun to offer cleaner fuelling options for airline ground equipment. Alaska Airlines joined forces with the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which installed electric charging infrastructure and offered 98% carbon-free electricity to airline customers. In 2013, Alaska replaced more than 200 fossil-fuel-powered vehicles with electric versions. The carrier aims to convert 44% of its ground fleet to electric by 2020.
Of course, electrifying its ground support equipment is not the only emission-reduction measure Alaska is taking. The airline is also focused on purchasing new, more fuel-efficient aircraft; using sustainable aviation biofuels; and aggressively adopting weight-saving measures as part of its environmental strategy.