Measuring the environmental efficiency of the global aviation fleet

Nicole Adler, Gianmaria Martini, Nicola Volta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This research analyses the environmental footprint of the airline industry in an attempt to highlight potential paths for improvement. We develop a directional economic-environmental distance function (DEED) which accounts for the production of both desirable and undesirable output and the potential for constrained increases in input utilization. This research applies the modeling framework to analyze the potential to reduce noise and airborne pollutants emitted by aircraft-engine combinations given the current state of aeronautical technology. The global aircraft-engine market is viewed from the regulatory perspective in order to compare the single environmental and operational efficient frontier to that of the airline carriers, and environmental objectives. The results of DEED are then applied in order to substitute the fleets serving Schipol, Amsterdam and Arlanda, Stockholm airports in June 2010 with the benchmark aircraft. The results highlight the inefficiencies of the current airline fleets and that the IPCC values of externalities are a magnitude of TEN too low to encourage changes in the global fleet hence the need for government intervention.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)82-100
Number of pages19
JournalTransportation Research Part B: Methodological
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The ICAO Engine Emission Databank is provided by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the FOI Database is provided by the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Prof. David Gillen and Dr. William Swan for extensive help and continuous interest in our work. We also thank the participants of the German Aviation Research Society’s Ph.D. Workshop 2012 and the aviation seminar series participants at the University of British Columbia’s Center for Transport Studies for their valuable advice. Finally, we would like to thank two referees and the editor of this journal for their helpful comments. Nicole Adler would like to thank the Recanati fund and the ISF for providing funding.


  • Aircraft environmental impact
  • Directional distance function
  • Economic-environmental efficiency
  • Environmental costs


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