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Local air quality

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Air transport at low altitude affects air quality in the vicinity of airports. There are several types of impact and different methods to try and reduce this impact.

Different sources of emissions

Like aircraft engines, airport activities produce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particles, carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbons (HC) (e.g. from ground vehicles).

Contribution of different activities to Air France emissions at Paris-Charles De Gaulle:



Aircraft produce most low-altitude NOx, while ground vehicles produce most CO and HC. 

► Aircraft movements

Aircraft emissions are evaluated when the aircraft is in movement at low altitude (taxiing, taking off and landing), according to LTO cycles (Landing and Take-Off).



Two thirds of all nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions at low altitude come from LTO cycles, while the second-largest contributor is the road services that enable passengers and employees to reach airports. On the other hand, less than half our carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbon (HC) emissions come from aircraft activity.


CO and HC emissions have fallen by 50% and 90% respectively in the last 40 years, whereas it is hard to reduce NOx emissions (produced by high engine rotation, especially during take-off) without affecting combustion quality.

Technology improvements that have helped reduce CO2 and noise have, however, generated a larger quantity of NOx. Today, one of the challenges of the aviation industry is to find the right trade-off between CO2, noise and NOx.


Modular airport fees

At certain European airports (London, Stockholm, Zurich, Geneva and Mulhouse), the airport taxes paid by airlines depend on the emissions levels (NOx and HC) of their aircraft. A high-performance aircraft pays a lower fee while an aircraft that performs less well in terms of NOx and HC will pay more, sometimes in an overall revenue zero-sum game for the airport.





At Paris-CDG Airport, the majority of gases emitted are produced by aircraft movements (taxiing, takeoff and landing).

The remainder is produced by ground activities, including logistics and road access to the airport for passengers, employees and suppliers.

Over the past ten years, aviation’s contribution to emissions in the Paris region, which includes accessing and operating the airport, has remained stable



Air France prioritizes electric vehicles for airport ground transportation.

This plan extends to ground handling equipment that is mainly powered by diesel. Almost half of the 1,000 items of ground support equipment (GSE) used at Paris-CDG.


At Paris-CDG Airport, Air France aims to lower emissions of NOx and CO2 of aircraft ground handling.

As part of the Airport-Collaborative Decision Making project, Air France has succeeded in reducing taxiing time by 3 minutes at Paris-CDG. 

Rather than using kerosene-powered APU (Auxiliary Power Units), Air France uses electric FPU (Fixed Power Units) where possible to power aircraft and ACU (Air Conditioning Units) which maintain an acceptable temperature on board aircraft. The GPUs, as well as an increasing number of aircraft towing trucks have been equipped with automatic power shut down systems.

At Air France, maintenance, ground operations and flight divisions have been working to reduce the use of GPUs.

In addition to this, new air conditioning equipment has been introduced at Paris-CDG, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion Island.

This has resulted in an 11% reduction in APU fuel consumption compared to 2013.