For those who have no choice and need to frequently travel by air, preventive reduction in emissions may be achieved by flying economy class, booking through airlines that use biofuels, or only taking non-stop flights. Airlines that use biofuels as opposed to jet fuels also produce less carbon emissions. The more time that a plane spends on the tarmac for passenger boarding and take off for more multiple flights, the more excess fuel these idle planes burn. Taking direct flights has shown to reduce those extra carbon emissions.
The purchase of carbon offsets for flights can also count towards a more sustainable approach to travel. This involves donating a set amount of money corresponding to the environmental damage caused by flight travels, to a non-profit or a company that undertakes environmental initiatives such a afforestation.
Buying carbon offsets does not reverse the damage to the climate that air travel causes, but it gives individuals and companies an incentive to think about limiting their greenhouse emissions. Business class and budget travelers require different types of incentives to offset carbon emissions. Business class passengers pay for the exclusivity and comfort. They have the means and are likely to spend more if they are told their additional contribution goes towards a specific cause (environmental) in a given country. For the budget traveller, incentives to take on carbon offset options can come in shared projects with much lower price points, like contributing to help a project purchase low-energy lightbulbs for distribution to developing countries.
But emission offset costs can be prohibitive. For example, purchasing carbon offsets for a Melbourne-London return trip costs approximately AUD425, which exceeds the cost of many low-budget carrier flight routes to numerous destinations and adds a hefty addition to an already expensive flight ticket.
Ultimately, carbon offsetting is a last resort. Fuel always generates the greatest cost for the airline companies. Achieving fuel efficiency would therefore benefit both airlines companies and the environment.