Skift Take

Alaska Airlines is letting customers purchase sustainable aviation fuel credits to offset the carbon footprint of their flights. These will go toward Alaska’s investments in developing and scaling SAFs.

As some travelers become more conscious of their carbon footprint, Alaska Airlines is betting that they’d be willing to buy credits to reduce their environmental impact while flying. 

The carrier rolled out a program on Tuesday that gives customers the option to buy sustainable aviation fuel credits during the booking process. Customers can choose to offset the environmental impact of their flight by 5%, 10% or 25% with these products. 
These credits will also go toward investing in technology to scale SAFs, said Diana Rakow, Alaska’s senior vice president of public affairs and sustainability. 

“Sustainable aviation fuel is a critical part of decarbonizing aviation and the more people that know about it and are engaged in it and are helping support it, the better chance we have of actually scaling that market,” Rakow told Skift. 

While the airline industry broadly supports using SAFs to make flying more sustainable, there have been issues developing the fuel. SAFs, which are typically made from waste products like cooking oil and feedstock, are expensive to produce and have so far been difficult to scale. Commercial aircraft are currently not certified to use a blend of more than 50% SAF. 

To incentivize flyers to buy SAF credits, Alaska plans to allow members of its loyalty program to earn elite-qualifying miles. Members of Alaska’s Mileage Plan will earn 500 EQMs for every $100 spent on SAF credits, providing another way to reach elite status.

Rakow said when the carrier piloted the program in 2023, it performed “really well” with customers.

“It was an opportunity to get guests engaged,” Rakow said. 

SAF Credits vs. Carbon Offsets

Alaska’s SAF credit program is different from a typical carbon offset scheme. Airlines will typically allow customers to purchase carbon offsets, which have come under scrutiny for their effectiveness

These credits are supposed to go toward reducing carbon emissions elsewhere, but a 2019 ProPublica investigation found that many of the projects these credits went toward overstated emissions reductions. 

Rakow said Alaska’s program goes directly toward building a bigger market for SAFs.

“It’s sort of an inset more than an offset,” she said. “It’s reducing their emissions, but it’s in-sector by investing in sustainable aviation fuel.”

Airlines Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of airline sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets including network carriers, low-cost carriers, and other related companies.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more airlines sector financial performance

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.


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Tags: alaska airlines, alaska mileage plan, carbon offsets, loyalty, sustainability, sustainable aviation fuel

Photo credit: Alaska Airlines Alaska Airlines

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