Delta Air Lines has hailed a positive step towards its sustainability targets with the establishment of fully electric, ground equipment.
Delta’s Emission-Free Ground Support
As part of Delta Air Line’s sustainability targets and aspirational goal of 100% net-zero global ground operation, key hubs have changed to all-electric vehicles.
The ground support equipment (GSE) at the airline’s Salt Lake City and Boston hubs has almost been completely replaced with electricity power vehicles.
GSE includes baggage tractors, aircraft push-back tugs, catering trucks and other ground vehicles used to service aircraft.
Salt Lake City is nearing 100% electric for its core ground servicing vehicles and Boston is also almost fully electric. Delta hails this as only hearing the “hum” of the electric motor on the ground in both of these airports. The new electricity-powered vehicles are distinguishable by their “zero-emission vehicle” green leaf decals.
Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Pam Fletcher, said, “Flying represents about 98% of Delta’s carbon emissions, and while we continue to work to drastically reduce that impact – Delta saved more than 10 million gallons of fuel in 2022 alone – we are working throughout our business to embed sustainability in everything we do.”
The company has outlined the ambitious goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the industry’s more sustainable travel goals.
The change in powering GSE is part of the airline’s 385 million USD investment in electrified GSE (eGSE) and airport infrastructure to support this. The investment is part of the project of funding across four years, between 2020 and 2024. Delta replaced over 650 pieces of GSE with electric-powered equipment in 2022.
The project has set the following aspirational milestones in its ground operations:
- 2025 – 50% eGSE with 5 hubs at 100% of the core fleet
- 2035 – 100% Delta hubs GSE and renewable energy powering operations
- 2050 – 100% net-zero operations
GSE only accounts for 0.5% of Delta’s total emissions. However, the airline states that the impact of its emissions can be beneficial for its people and local communities through improved air quality, less hazardous waste and lower noise pollution at airports.
Speak on the efforts to convert GSE to electricity power, Chad Bednar, Delta’s Sustainability Manager, said, “The people in Salt Lake City are spearheading our effort to say: ‘Yes, we can go to fully electric ground support equipment in a truly four-season environment. So, they’re really proving out the strategy that we’ll use as a template as we expand to other airports.”
The airline is extending its sustainability efforts to further cities such as its hubs in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York (La Guardia and JFK) and other destinations and bases across its network in the conterminous United States of America.
Investing in Infrastructure
In addition to key hubs in its United States home, the airline is also investing in infrastructure in key cities in its network.
In April, the carrier introduced its first electric catering truck in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport which it has completed in collaboration with Asito.
The truck is scheduled to be deployed to Delta’s aircraft for three months to service their in-flight catering needs while reducing CO2 emissions and diesel pollution.
The truck travels almost 2000 miles (1800) according to the airline’s estimates with the engine running continuously while stationary, to power the vehicle while servicing the aircraft. Each truck can supply five or six aircraft per day or two or three aircraft at a time, with Delta’s current operations of Airbus A330 and A350 fleet.
During servicing, the new eGSE and electric catering trucks do not emit any CO2 during this period, normally when stationary. The carrier also states weekly refuelling and filter regeneration processes are no longer required which results in time and cost efficiencies.
Delta’s EMEAI Field Director, Markus Wegner, said, “Delta is taking steps to use only electric vehicles at Schiphol and on a larger scale at other international airports. This initiative has an immediate positive impact on reducing greenhouse gases and creates a better work environment for our below-wing teams.”
The airline has already progressed its sustainability in other areas, such as eliminating over five million pounds of single-use plastics from in-flight services. The carrier has also saved 10 million gallons of jet fuel alone in the year 2022.
“There is no shortage of short-term progress we’re investing in to reduce our footprint,” Fletcher added.