Google Flights includes CO2 emission in flight search listings

For anyone who needs or wants to travel fast and far, flying is still the way to go. While consumers increasingly feel at least a twinge of flygskam before booking a flight, desire and necessity mean air travel won’t disappear. And for mass travel, that currently still means fossil-fueled planes.

So there’s every reason to help people turn their environmental awareness into actions that lower their carbon footprint. And narrowing down options to the least environmentally harmful option has the added appeal of sidestepping choice overload.

Google Flights
Google Flights earlier this month announced it now includes estimated CO2 emissions in flight search resultsand on booking pages. In addition to sorting by price or duration, users can now sort by emission, and if trains are an option on their selected route, Google shows those as well.

James Byers, a senior product manager on the Google travel team, said the emissions estimates are based on a combination of factors, such as the distance of a trip, the number of stops, the number and class of seats on board, the type of aircraft, and data from the European Environment Agency.

Any options with “significantly lower” carbon emissions will be given a green badge that you’ll spot when searching Google Flights. You can also sort by the carbon emissions to work out which is the greenest airline or flight available to you.

It turns out other brilliant minds were working on this, too. Created by Good Caesar — ‘a design and technology studio with an affinity for maps and aviation’ — Lite.Flights uses data from frequently updated search results and aims to add more destinations over time. It isn’t currently connected to a booking engine.

The Lite.Flights website shows the most carbon efficient flights between the world’s top 100 airports, routed by country, city, airport, airline and aircraft type. For London Heathrow to Seoul, for example, that would be a flight by Asiana Airlines on an Airbus A350-900, producing 1946 kg CO2 per passenger for a one-way trip. Only flights with the lowest carbon emissions are shown; others are left out.

Enhanced carbon emission checks for Google Flights join existing Google features that allow for quick feedback on the sustainability practices of hotels. Using the hotel search tool, users can see if a hotel has made any “meaningful commitments to sustainability.”