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Letting Sustainability Take Flight With American Airlines 

Airline's promoting ESG sustainability, SAF, and the airline of the future
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In this episode of the Wheels Up Podcast Series, Jill Blickstein, American Airlines’  Vice President of Sustainability joins Helane Becker, Airlines, Airfreight & Aircraft Leasing Analyst. They discuss how the airline is working to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Efforts include contracting for SAF and creating meaningful fuel savings through more efficient routing. They also speak about American’s latest sustainability report

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Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to TD Cowen Insights, a space that brings leading thinkers together to share insights and ideas shaping the world around us. Join us as we converse with the top minds who are influencing our global sectors.

Helane Becker:

I am Helane Becker, TD Cowen Senior Airline Industry Analyst, and I am joined today by Jill Blickstein, American Airlines Vice President of Sustainability. Jill, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

Jill Blickstein:

Thank you, Helane, and thanks so much for inviting me today.

Helane Becker:

The role of vice president of sustainability seems to be a relatively new one for airlines. What does it mean for American Airlines, and how important is this role?

Jill Blickstein:

You’re absolutely right. I think it is a relatively new phenomenon, and I think that’s because the idea of sustainability in the aviation in airline business has changed quite a bit, even in the last couple of years. Until fairly recently, the best way for airlines to remove emissions from our operations was to buy newer aircraft, which are typically 15% to 20% more efficient than the last generation. That’s true for the Airbus 321 Neo and the Boeing Max.

What’s really changed in the last few years is the idea that one day we could actually have an alternative to petroleum jet fuel, and we talk a lot now about sustainable aviation fuel. Even 10 years ago it was barely an idea, and only in the last couple of years have you even been able to buy what we call SAF, Sustainable Aviation Fuel. But even though you can buy a little bit of it today, it’s still really mostly a concept, right? There’s very little being produced today and it has to be blended 50/50 with traditional jet fuel and it’s super, super expensive. But the fact that SAF today is a drop in fuel, and this is a slightly technical point and I’ll just explain what it means because it’s super, super important for aviation. SAF is a drop in fuel. That means once it’s blended, it’s equivalent to jet fuel.

So the airlines run big common tanks at the airports, and when SAF is blended, it can just go into the common tanks and it goes to fuel every aircraft at the airport. So you don’t have to change engines, and we don’t have to change our fueling systems. And I should have started probably with the bottom line. It reduces the lifecycle emissions of jet fuel by 75%. 75% is a huge number. In our day-to-day operations, maybe we could reduce our emissions if we’re super, super efficient by one or 2% a year. So all of a sudden to get a 75% reduction, all of a sudden made it possible for airlines to contemplate reaching net-zero. And so you asked me what’s changed? Well, I think the introduction of SAF and the idea that one day could be produced at scale, that’s what’s been kind of revolutionary in the aviation business.

So to come back to your original question, what is sustainability in America? I think that the center is addressing the impact of our operations on the climate and taking that, doing what we can to accelerate those new technologies that will help, will help us really reach zero.

Helane Becker:

That’s amazing, right? I just feel like that 75% number is so huge, and I agree with your comment, right? It’s very expensive, so it has to come down and it hasn’t been scaled yet. And I don’t know how you think about this, but I feel like the best place to do it is the big oil companies, right? The energy companies that are already producing oil and looking at alternatives. When you think about SAF, I was going to ask that a little bit later, but did you look at United’s SAF fund? Have you thought about doing one of your own?

And the other thing, you talked about SAF and you talked about its inability right now to scale. And I don’t know if you want to get into this, but what about regulations that around it? I mean, I feel like the government interjects everywhere. They’re ubiquitous in our life and anytime they can make our life more difficult, I feel like they do. But without commenting on the political aspects of my question, how does American think about the concept of encouraging companies to make SAF affordable?

Jill Blickstein:

Yeah, it’s a great question and it’s one that I think all of the airlines are thinking about all the time. We have had a system in the United States of government incentives, and those are really financial incentives, generally tax credits or other kinds of schemes, that will incent the production of renewable liquid fuels.

And though that system of incentives has existed since the 1970s, well before SAF was even an idea. So what the airlines have been trying to do, working with the SAF producers, is trying to insert SAF into that existing kind of infrastructure. So for example, all the SAF in the world, really today, most of the SAF in the world, like 90% probably, is delivered into the state of California because California has what’s called the low carbon fuel standard, and that’s an additional incentive, aviation is opt-in to that system. So SAF is cheaper there because it can benefit from that financial incentive, than it is anywhere else in the world. And we do what’s called incentive stacking. So there is a Federal renewable fuel standard, there is the California standard, I think there’s other standards. Anyway, so that’s why SAF goes to California, really. So as you said, the role of the government in building the market for SAF is absolutely essential.

And one of the really big wins for the industry in the Inflation Reduction Act was the very first SAF specific tax credit. So before the IRA got passed, SAF could take advantage of an existing earlier tax credit, but once the IRA got passed for the first time, we have our own tax credit. And what’s important is, it’s performance based. So let me see if I can get this right. The lower the carbon intensity of the fuel, the more it reduces emissions, the more the incentive is worth. So I think at 75% emissions reduction, the incentive is worth $1.50 a gallon, and that goes up to if the SAF could reduce emissions compared to petroleum jet fuel by 100%, it’d be worth $1.75. Sorry, it’s $1.25 to $1.75. Anyway, my point is that it’s performance based.

You asked what’s changed. This is a little bit revolutionary. It was about two years ago, I was talking to someone on the hill about how we need a tax credit for SAF, and she said, “You will never get a new tax credit. That’s impossible.” And lo and behold, people kind of get how incredible SAF could be, and we’ve got the first tax credit. You started your question I think in exactly the right place, asking me about the oil majors. And the oil majors make a lot of renewable diesel in the United States. And you’re going to think, I’m going off on a tangent here, but actually renewable diesel is important because it’s the same feedstocks as SAF, right? The SAF that’s being made today is from waste oils and it’s called HEFA. So Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids, and it’s waste oils and fats.

So think used cooking oil. I’ll give you a new acronym today. UCO is used cooking oil, and there are companies that go around and collect it from restaurants, and it’s used to make SAF. Anyway, those same feedstocks make renewable diesel. And renewable diesel, as I said earlier, benefits from this kind of system of tax incentives, but it is still profitable today, even after enactment of the new tax credit in the IRA, it’s still more profitable to make a renewable diesel than it is to make SAF. And when we shift that, all of a sudden you’re going to see all that renewable diesel production shift into SAF production. And underneath that, you see road transport decarbonizing. As we shift to EVs and there’s less demand for renewable diesel, we can kit over all that production into making SAF, and that’s hundreds of millions of gallons.

Helane Becker:

That’s huge. I mean, I’m so excited to hear about that. What’s the timing? Is that a 10-year thing, a five-year thing? And you don’t have to be, obviously you don’t know, but is it that long or closer in? I feel like I live in the state of Delaware, and this is slightly off-topic, but we have our governor has instituted a 2032 rule. Anything sold in this state that’s a car has to be electric after 2032. So to your earlier point about decarbonizing road transport, which is responsible for most of the emissions, right? 72% of all emissions are a road and 2% are aviation. I mean, we’re a small percentage of the total, but somehow aviation always gets stumped on.

Jill Blickstein:

You asked me how long it will take. I think it really depends on my mood on that given day, right? Because it’s just an opinion out there like how are the winds blowing. With the enactment of the tax credit? I think certainly anecdotally, I heard a lot of people tell me, “Well, we’re now going to move our production to the United States.” And so that’s kind of exciting. When you tell me about the Delaware rule, I think that’s pretty exciting. The idea that we’re going to start… Lots of people, I’ve heard about 2035 goals, and so to have a 2032 rule is terrific. The quicker we can move to electrification for road, that’s fantastic. It’s fantastic for another reason. There are going to be lots of different ways to make SAF, what we’re doing now with used cooking oil and with bio-based feedstocks, that’s the first, the one we can do today. But the next one coming down the road is going to be to make SAF from corn ethanol.

And so the quicker we’re not using gasoline with ethanol mixed in, we can move ethanol as a feedstock over to make SAF. And so as other industries decarbonize, they’ll free up some resources for aviation. I like to say my crystal balls a little like dusty. It’s hard to see how is this really going to move. Last year, we and a lot of other airlines have a goal to reach 10% SAF by 2030. So for us, that’s about 500 million gallons, between 450 and 500 million gallons. Last year we used about two and a half million gallons of SAF. So to give you kind of a sense of the scale of where we have to get to, we have contracts for about 20% of that 10%, so about 220 million gallons. And these are contracts obviously for delivery in the future, which I’ll tell you, it sort of drives my fuel team a little bit crazy.

We buy a lot of fuel, we buy three to four billion gallons of fuel. Billion with a B, and when we go to buy fuel, it’s delivered. There’s no, “Oh, you’re not getting your fuel today.” So when I go to my fuel team and I say, “Hey, we’re going to buy fuel from a team that has never made SAF.” Whose plant does not exist yet. They don’t quite understand, “Well, what do you mean if that SAF doesn’t actually come? What am I going to do, Jill? Where do you think I’m going to go at the last minute to go get SAF?” So it’s introduced so much uncertainty into the system where the fossil fuel delivery system, it’s complex and it’s complete and it delivers. Now we’re kind of going into this unknown world with my biggest contract is the plan hasn’t been built yet, and so we’re all going to go watch to see that plant get built.

But yet nonetheless, those are big numbers. I contracted for 500 million gallons of SAF over some number of years. I’m not seeing opportunities to do that all the time at prices that I could actually afford. So that’s why I said on any given day. Today, I’m a little, well, I’m always concerned about it. A lot more SAF has to fall in place.

Helane Becker:

Right. Well, I will tell you, I’ve been doing this for 40 years, actually more than 40 years with a that’s like four zero. And I will tell you the industry uses about the same amount of jet fuel it used when I first started, even though we’re flying more and longer distances because the engines have gotten more efficient. And I feel like it’s an entire ecosystem. It’s not only the airlines, it’s the airlines. When you say you bought two and a half million gallons of SAF last year and you contracted for 500 million, I think the bigger message is if you make it, we’ll be there to buy it. And I think that’s been the case for a long time, even before the pandemic and even before it became popular to talk about SAF, airlines dabbled in the space with the idea that, “Hey, if you guys make an alternative to jet fuel, we’re there. We just can’t pay $10 or $12 a gallon for it. It has to be in the $2 to $3 a gallon range because we have thin margins.”

And I think part of it is the engine manufacturers, they have to make a more fuel efficient engine so that four and a half to five billion gallons of jet fuel that American uses and has, if you add up all the parts of American that are American, so you add up US Airways and Air Cal and PSA and all the companies that became American Airlines over the… Or not PSA, but Air Cal, Reno Air, I think you guys bought TWA. If you add up all those from when I first started as an airline analyst and those companies existed and you add up the jet fuel they used and the jet fuel American uses today, it’s about the same. And a lot of it is we win from three crew, three engine aircraft, to two crew, two engine aircraft. That was a big change and so on.

So I am very optimistic that the industry will make to 2050. But that said, I know that there are a lot of people who are not optimistic, and you just talked about a lot of things that you’re doing with respect to SAF, but what else is American doing to achieve that? And as part of that question, a little longer question. Last week I read something about contrails, and Americans saying that you can actually, I think it was minimize them. And I think two things. One, I want you to talk to that, but the other thing, when I was a kid, I lived about 40 minutes, 45 minutes from Newark Airport, that’s where I grew up. And I used to think it was so exciting when I saw the contrails across the sky.

Because I knew there was a plane, and I thought it was so exciting that somebody was getting to go someplace. And I had my first plane trip when I was 12, which was beyond enjoyment. My sister and I by ourselves, I was 12, she was 10. Our parents dropped us off at the gate and we flew to Miami to visit our grandparents for the week between Christmas and New Year when we were off school. And it was so easy back in the day, I mean, this was in the 1960s that there were no metal detectors. Just everybody walked to the gate and your parents sat there and kissed you goodbye. You went on the plane, you had your seat. I was in the middle. She was in the window, if you remember it like it was yesterday and it was National Airlines, which doesn’t exist anymore, but it was the airline with the sun on the tail. But anyway, that’s-

Jill Blickstein:

That’s a great experience though, to be that young and be able to fly on your own.

Helane Becker:

Yeah, it was a lot. I mean, it was just a nonstop, and our grandparents were at the gate at the other end, and we flew into their arms and had a really wonderful week with them. It was so different than it is today. But so I want to know about contrails. I know it’s probably really more complicated than I’ll understand, but-

Jill Blickstein:

Okay. Okay, that sounds good. Let me go back to the beginning. You said something important about collaboration, which is we talk about our path to net-zero and there’s some of it that we, an airline, American Airlines can achieve on our own. We can become more efficient with things like smart gating with things like we’re replacing short regional flights with buses in a few areas to get people behind the security line.

There’s things we can do to become more efficient on the margin. And obviously we could buy new aircraft. And you talked about, you sort of blew my mind with this point about the fuel that we’re burning the same amount of fuel, but we’re flying so much more, because we have become more efficient. Frankly, we don’t talk about that anymore because we are hard to abate and we know we have this big challenge in front of us. And so we don’t like to talk about how much progress we’ve made because people think, “Oh, you’re trying to make excuses for the fact that you still burn so much jet fuel.” So we know we have a challenge, but you’re absolutely right, and thank you for the reminder. We’ve made so much progress. But everything else we have to do to reach net-zero, whether it’s SAF or the next generation of aircraft and engines or the improvements to air traffic control that we need, those big things we can’t do on our own.

These are either other companies or they’re governments and they’re areas where we all have to be collaborating. And so that’s what you’re going to see, and I think you see now, lots of collaboration. I mean, frankly, that’s what buying SAF from a company that doesn’t have a plant yet is right. It’s taking a bet on somebody that they’re going to be successful. It’s really all about collaboration. And sometimes we’re good at that, and sometimes all of us need a kick in the pants to actually get there. On contrails, yeah, so we just announced last week a collaboration with Google Research and Breakthrough Energy on a contrail’s reduction test. So yes, you see those contrails in the sky. Contrails are formed when the exhaust from the airplane, the airplane is flying at certain altitudes and certain humidity and some contrails are long-lasting and some just disappear right away.

And the fundamental idea is that contrails are basically shallow and wide, and they basically form into new cirrus clouds. And when a contrail is formed in the morning, it could help block the sun’s heat, and let’s say it could be maybe a little cooling to the planet, but when contrails are formed in the late afternoon and the night and when they last, they actually trap the earth’s heat from escaping, and the emerging scientific consensus. And I’m not a scientist, so I’m going to do my best to translate here. As I understand it, the emerging scientific consensus is that the net impact is that the nighttime contrails are much more warming than the daytime contrails are cooling, and possibly much more warming to the point that they might equal 1% of all human induced global warming. And different people have different reactions to the 1%. I heard 1% and I said, “Wow, that’s a lot.”

Some people say, “Oh 1%, that’s not so much.” I think that’s a lot, and especially in the context of considering that aviation’s contribution to warming is about 2%, two and a half percent. So another 1% is a big deal, right? Today, it’s not yet possible to measure which contrails come from which planes and which airlines. So we believe that contrails are warming, and the next thing to do is figure out can we avoid creating them in flight? There’s different ways to do that. There’s some theory that as we move to more sustainable aviation fuel, that’s going to have lower particulate matter, or sorry, lower aromatics in the fuel, and that will produce fewer contrails. We don’t have nearly enough SAF to even begin to test that. The other theory is that we could make small altitude changes, right? I said that contrails are thin. So if we reduce altitude by, let’s say, 2,000 to 4,000 feet in a contrail likely zone, could we avoid creating the contrail?

And I say reduce altitude, because generally, well planes are certified to fly at some maximum altitude, and generally the pilot will fly as close to that maximum as he or she can because that’s the least fuel burn. We don’t typically want to descend to a lower altitude because that’s going to be additional fuel burn. And that’s a very important point. But anyway, for this test, we worked with Google and Breakthrough in a small set of pilots, and we would actually look at the contrail forecast on a Wednesday morning, and then we would pair it up against American’s network map. But we would say, “Okay, are we going to fly in any of these zones?” And a pilot would say, “Well, I could try to take the flight from Dallas to Tampa.” Because that’s going to fly in this big contrail zone. And then we would flip a coin and we would decide, because we needed to do a test, we needed a control group and a test group, we would say, well, let’s say heads, whatever.

The pilot’s going to avoid creating the contrail on the way out. And on the way back, he or she is going to fly the normal flight plan. And pilots change altitude in flight all the time, for turbulence, for other safety reasons, for other kinds of weather. And the contrail avoidance screen, I wish I could show you a picture, it looks a lot like a turbulence avoidance screen. It shows the pilot exactly where those areas are going to be so the pilot can descend and avoid that. And we did a small number of flights. We did about 30, 35 round trips, and that was enough to give us statistical significance in the test, and we were able to reduce, the test group created 54% fewer contrail kilometers than the control group. So we were able to prove that we could actually avoid creating the contrail. And the important point actually is that Google went back and used satellite imagery to see was the contrail created or not.

And so we can verify, we used people who were not involved. Google used observers who were not involved in the test to go look at the satellite imagery. So we think it’s the first time anyone has actually done a verified significant test of a contrail avoidance strategy.

Helane Becker:

That just seems like it could be huge, especially if your earlier comment talked about contrails in the morning kind of being less intrusive than contrails at night. Encourage is the wrong word, but one was more beneficial to cooling versus warming, which is what you’d want to see. And it could change flight schedules, couldn’t it? Airlines might rethink the amount of flying they do at night or to your second point about turbulence avoidance, which you’re right, pilots do that all the time. They could move around to reduce contrails and improve performance that way.

I think if you are able to get it done without increasing fuel burn and improving performance, I think that’s huge. So I’m going to look forward to more information on that.

Jill Blickstein:

We did these tests only on daytime flights, because that’s how we could get the turn. So that’s how we could get the test. But the next step is going to be to figure out how do you do the test on nighttime and how do you identify the most warming contrails? So there’s a lot more exciting work to do. You asked me earlier about competition among the airlines, and I have a meeting with all the airlines coming up, all the airline sustainability leads coming up soon where we’re going to describe all this work. This is going to be a really interesting area to work with other airlines because we can really share what we’re learning and we can all collaborate. So I’m excited about that too.

Helane Becker:

Yeah, that could be really exciting. I don’t know if we forgot to talk about anything that you specifically want to talk about, but I was just going to say, what’s keeping you up at night? What do you think about? One of the earlier questions? What’s success in your role look like? I think contrail mitigation could be a big part of it, right? I mean, you could be the person responsible for that, and that would be huge for the industry in general. But yeah, I guess those are three questions. Haven’t we talked about? We should. What did I miss? What keeps you up at night and what are you most excited about near term and maybe longer-term?

Jill Blickstein:

I think we should have talked about hydrogen propulsion, because that’s another thing, that until recently nobody was talking about, there’s still frankly a lot of naysayers on the whole hydrogen side, but the idea of hydrogen propulsion actually isn’t super new, it just has not been an area of focus. I think the government flew hydrogen propelled planes in the 1950s, but it hasn’t been a source of focus. And I think as the interest in green hydrogen has really blossomed, and obviously there’s huge incentives these days and a lot very exciting happening to spur the production of green hydrogen. There’s also a lot happening in hydrogen propulsion, and this is the idea of using a fuel cell on an aircraft to generate, to use the hydrogen to create electricity.

And American has invested in two companies that are working to do this. One is ZeroAvia, that wants to retrofit or create small airplanes at the beginning that can fly on hydrogen. And another one is Universal Hydrogen, also working to retrofit. The idea of retrofitting small regional jets I find super exciting, because sometimes the regionals are the least efficient in the fleet because they fly short distances and they fly a few number of people.

But the idea of being able to retrofit those planes to hydrogen and essentially have zero emission, you could have zero emission flights with hydrogen if you could use all green hydrogen. Interesting thing about Universal Hydrogen is they want to retrofit a plane, but they also want to figure out how to do hydrogen fuel logistics. As I said earlier, we have this huge and very complex fossil fuel delivery system. We can’t replicate that for hydrogen, but Universal Hydrogen has this idea of creating these capsules that will be able to hold hydrogen, and you could actually just load the capsules onto the aircraft in the belly or at the back of the aircraft to be able to serve the fuel cell. And so it’s a more modular way of getting fuel around without having to rebuild a whole infrastructure for fueling.

Both those companies have made progress. They’ve done test flights, we’re seeing milestones met. They’re getting new investment. It’s a very exciting area. Again, it’s not something where American can participate directly other than through investment, but in some ways, for example, we’ll have those companies come to us and ask us questions about how we operate. So we’re able to contribute intellectually to how the system works to help them grow their products. So that’s something I’m very excited about. What keeps me up at night is 4 billion gallons of fuel, right? That’s what American is going to be using and being able to replace that I think scaling the SAF market, like really getting it to scale quickly. Wind and solar are ubiquitous today, but they took decades to develop. We don’t have decades for SAF, right? We need to see the SAF market really come to scale by 2030 or soon thereafter.

So that’s a very challenging timeframe. I’m excited about the work on the contrails, honestly. I mean, I’ve been working on it for probably more than a year. It’s been very cool to get to work with Google and Breakthrough and all these scientists. I’m excited because it’s something that we could see come to a fruition in the next couple of years. It’s not 20 years away. It’s something we could do now to reduce our warming when we have very few opportunities really today to reduce our impact on the planet. And this is something we could do maybe not today, today, but in a today meaning next couple of years.

Helane Becker:

No, that’s really exciting. And actually is, because when you think about it, airlines think in terms of decades. You don’t buy an airplane, even if you order a plane today as Americans… You don’t have to comment on this, but Americans contemplating a replacement order for about 100 aircraft, narrow body aircraft.

You don’t make that decision today for tomorrow. It’ll take maybe this is a ’27 to 2032 delivery scheme. Well, you think about it in 2030, those planes that are being delivered are going to be flying in 2050. So the engines better be efficient and they better be able to fly on alternative fuels, not just jet fuel, which is still the most efficient. It might not be the cleanest, but it’s the most efficient. And I think people forget that. They think airlines can turn on a dime and they can’t, because of the lead time that it takes you to get the aircraft and then they’re multi decade use, right? Those planes are going to be in service for many years. So that’s kind of-

Jill Blickstein:

Absolutely. We planned for a 30-year useful life for an aircraft.

Helane Becker:

Exactly.

Jill Blickstein:

It’s a very long time in this environment, right?

Helane Becker:

Yes, exactly. Okay. I know we didn’t talk about carbon offsets, but I don’t know how you think about it. I don’t do them. I did it once for a train, but in general, I just look at that and say, “No, I’m paying enough money for my ticket. I’m not paying another whatever.” But I don’t know. Do you see customers doing that?

Jill Blickstein:

We have a partnership with a nonprofit called Cool Effect, so it’s cooleffect.org, and they source high-quality carbon offsets, and one of the reasons we work with them is that they do a ton of due diligence. You’ve probably seen in the media all these kinds of attacks on carbon offset projects as not being additional or not promising what they say. So it’s become a super complicated area. I think we see very little uplift on or take up of customers wanting to buy carbon offsets.

We offer them, after you’ve bought a ticket on us, there’s a link to go buy a carbon offset. I think we’re going to see more move towards companies putting those in the booking path so that you could see it as an option as you buy your ticket. I think we’re going to see more offers of things like being able to offset some of your emissions with SAF instead of with a carbon offset. I think it’s important for us to keep carbon offsets in the mix. There’s other airlines that have said they don’t ever want to buy a carbon offset. I think carbon offsets are going to be important. Frankly, I think we need every single tool available to us to actually meet these climate goals. And the idea of taking anything that’s valuable off the table, I just think is a mistake. I think, look, there are projects out there that aren’t good, and we got to find those and get rid of them, and we also have to invest in the projects that are really good.

The other thing about these carbon offset projects is that they can have other benefits in their community. So for example, Cool Effect is one of the leaders in the Clean Cookstoves Movement, that you could avoid emissions, right? And a lot of the climate world doesn’t like avoidance, but you could avoid new emissions by creating these cleaner cookstoves in very low-income communities. Well, you’ve avoided emissions, and it’s possible to pretty significantly improve the health outcomes for the people in those communities. That is significant. And I think those kinds of community benefits, whether it’s healthcare or new jobs, new high-quality jobs, whether it’s cleaning up these communities that otherwise would not get investment, I think that’s all very important. But I think first and foremost, as a climate tool, I think carbon offsets are going to be important, and we are going to certainly keep them on the table.

I mean, I don’t know how familiar you are with CORSIA, but we’re going to need to buy carbon offsets to comply with our CORSIA obligations in this decade. And so we’re looking at what we can invest in.

Helane Becker:

Well, okay, that is so much for our listeners to think about, and for me to think about, and I’m passionate about this area for a variety of reasons, but I come down on the side of it’s important for health, it’s important for the world. I mean, totally off-topic, but we saw Greece on fire this summer, we saw this devastation in Hawaii, and I know American has been a big supporter of Airlink and I’m an ambassador for Airlink, full disclosure, but also bringing supplies in to Maui and help with the evacuation. It’s devastating. And when you think about Hawaii, this happening in Hawaii, it’s the most remote place on the planet.

I mean, other than obviously the Arctics and Antarctica, but it’s the most remote place on the planet, and for this to happen there, it’s just fearsome. And you see that shift. When I first started as an analyst, Seattle had kind of funky weather in the winter, but it was raining. It was relatively warm, it was rain. And you think about the last few winters where Seattle has had snow and ice, and Dallas, ice, right? I know you don’t live there, but it’s just kind of people who live in the South aren’t used to dealing with snow and ice, but increasingly they’ve had to. And I think this is all part of the whole ecosystem of the world that I think we have to be good stewards of our climate and our earth because we’re not going to get another chance at it. And we’re also seeing the extreme heat. I mean, Phoenix, Texas.

Jill Blickstein:

Yeah, places that we’re used to 100 degrees, but now you’re getting into 105, 110, and really scary stuff.

Helane Becker:

Really frightening, especially because you can’t ask your workers to be outside for long, either on the extremes, either extreme heat or extreme cold. It’s just not reasonable.

Jill Blickstein:

Obviously a huge impact on our frontline people being out there in the weather, but also more wear and tear on the engines and at certain temperatures and certain altitude, you can’t fly or we have to reduce weight on the airplane. So we see human impact first, and we see operational impact also. But yeah, no, the planet is seeing all kinds of new and unexpected and terrible weather.

Helane Becker:

Well, I’m really excited that we have this chance to talk, and I’m really looking forward to watching what American is going to be doing in the future and the next few years because I’m curious, and I’m hoping for us to do well, so that we don’t have limitations and caps as the Europeans are going to. If anything is under two and a half hours in France, it has to be by train. No more domestic flying. We don’t have those alternatives in the US, but sometimes the US government forgets that we don’t have alternatives and makes rules anyway.

Jill Blickstein:

Well, we have to reduce aviation’s impact. And most of the airlines, all the airlines really have focused on this and has embraced the net-zero 2050, and I think what we’re going to see is the opportunity for more collaboration among the airlines and more collaboration among the sectors to help us reach these goals, because we have to get there.

Helane Becker:

That’s great. And I’m looking forward to observing. It’s what keeps me excited about my job. Okay. Well thanks Jill.

Jill Blickstein:

Thanks, Helane. This was fun.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for the next episode of TD Cowen Insights.


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