A new study by a team from The University of Manchester in the UK has found that the main culprit for aviation emissions across the connected continent of Europe is the large number of short-haul flights.
The research, recently published in journal Transportation Research, identified that a large number of flights over distances of less than 300 miles between city pairs with existing public transport connections are a key contributor of harmful emissions.
Aviation authorities and airlines have an opportunity to review the frequency of these routes, to reduce emissions, optimize networks, reduce congestion and contribute positively to environmental sustainability.—Antonino Filippone, lead author
To create the data models the Manchester researchers used a rapidly expanding data broadcasting system to track worldwide air traffic. Air traffic data was then integrated with aircraft emission models to produce quantitative estimates of engine exhaust emissions of most aircraft types (fuel burn, CO2, NOx, CO, UHC, SOx, non-volatile particulate matter).
These emissions can be aggregated by aircraft type, city pairs and routes, flight frequency, flight altitude. The team focussed on the estimation of environmental emissions across the European Continent by considering short-haul flights, or flights less than 300 miles (or 500 km).
Short flights between several city pairs were identified within the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Poland, that operated flights over flat terrain and distances of less than 200 miles. The most common routes in the data analyzed included Copenhagen-Bromma (Stockholm), Gothenburg-Bromma (Sweden); Fiumicino (Rome)-Linate (Milan), Madrid-Oporto (Portugal) and a considerable number of domestic routes in Poland, for example Warsaw-Krakow. There are also flights such as Brussels-Amsterdam (Schipol) where good non-air travel transport links exists as well as many short flights in central Europe.
Antonio Filippone, Ben Parkes (2021) “Evaluation of commuter airplane emissions: A European case study,” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, Volume 98 doi: 10.1016/j.trd.2021.102979