Conscious Choices by Etihad Guest allows members to earn miles for offsetting carbon emissions from flights, taking less luggage and ‘making environmentally friendly choices in their everyday life’. Jenny Southan reports

Is it possible for flying to be sustainable? Middle Eastern airline Etihad wants to alleviate consumer anxiety by creating a loyalty programme called Conscious Choices that encourages them to lower their carbon footprint, mainly through offsetting. Is it greenwashing or a step in the right direction?

Apparently, the airline hopes to halve 2019 emissions by 2035 and achieve “net zero emissions” by 2050.

Now, the airline’s existing Etihad Guest loyalty programme has introduced a series of sustainability-focused options to reward members for making “green” choices and providing ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Conscious Choices means flyers can now earn Tier Miles and other rewards for carrying less baggage on board (heavier planes burn more fuel), and offsetting their flights’ carbon emissions using Etihad Guest Miles. (Rewarding members with Tier Miles helps them on maintain their existing tier or upgrade to the new tier to unlock more benefits.)

In their daily lives, when not flying, members can also earn Tier Miles by offsetting everyday emissions from car journeys, with options ranging from one month to one year worth of offsets. They can also donate miles to a “green cause”, purchase “sustainable products” from the Etihad Guest Reward Shop in partnership with Collinson and CarbonClick, and opt for a digital membership card instead of a plastic one.

Members’ sustainable behaviours are “already being captured” so they can be rewarded for offsetting their flights with Miles and purchasing sustainable products in the Reward Shop, while the full programme and benefits will go live in January 2022.

Tony Douglas, group chief executive officer, Etihad Aviation Group, says: “Etihad’s commitment to sustainability sits at the core of our business, and we’re pleased to welcome our eight million members to jump on board this journey to sustainability. Empowering our members to offset their personal travel or shopping in a sustainable way, and be rewarded for it, gives the Etihad sustainability programme even more weight.

“While Etihad has focused on developing technology and innovative solutions for operational efficiency that will actively reduce the CO2 emissions of flying, we have placed an equal focus on the guest. To that end we have been developing our sustainable loyalty programme for the last year, listening to member feedback and taking into account their priorities and expectations for travel.

“Through this we have refined a programme that will provide members with the ability and incentive to travel more sustainably, while further reinforcing our position as a planet-conscious travel and lifestyle brand.”

How is Etihad making flying more sustainable?

Over the last two years, despite the challenges of Covid-19, Etihad has introduced a number of CO2 reduction initiatives under its Greenliner sustainability programme. This includes adopting thousands of mangroves, using sustainable fuels, reducing contrails, flying optimised flight paths, operating more electric vehicles and working with partners who “share its vision for cleaner skies”.

In October, Etihad operated its “most sustainable flight ever”, reducing carbon emissions by 72 per cent in absolute terms compared to the equivalent flight operated in 2019. “The EY20 Sustainable Flight is an example of what the future of commercial air travel looks like”, says Etihad.

Throughout 2021, Etihad expanded its carbon offset programme to support Peru’s Cordillera Azul National Park project and Indonesia’s Katingan Mentaya Project in partnership with Respira, Shell and CarbonClick. At the same time, Etihad offset the emissions of its signature Greenliner aircraft for the entire year, the equivalent to approximately 80,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

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