British low-cost airline easyJet PLC unveiled a model of an "ecoJet" on Thursday, saying that the planes would emit half the carbon of those now in use.
Chief Executive Andy Harrison said the technology to build the aircraft already existed, and his company was in talks with Boeing and Airbus to get it delivered by 2015.
"This is not 'Star Trek.' This is the future," Harrison said. "If it were to be made available today, we would order hundreds of them for fleet replacement."
Lower speeds, the use of weight-reducing materials, and open rotors fitted to the back of the plane would all act to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollution — cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent and nitrogen by 75 percent, easyJet said. The new plane would also be quieter than previous models.
Easyjet said 25 percent of CO2 emissions would be cut by using open rotor engines, which must be placed above the tail due to their size, while 15 percent would be cut by using the lighter airframe and 10 percent by air traffic control improvements.
The aviation industry, which accounts for about 2 percent of the world's carbon emissions, has come under increasing pressure from environmental campaigners, and airline companies have been racing to burnish their green credentials.
"The aviation industry has an excellent record in reducing the environmental footprint of aircraft," Harrison added. "Today’s aircraft are typically 70 percent cleaner and 75 percent quieter than their 1960s counterparts. Now we are planning the next generation that will help towards taking the plane out of the emissions equation."
Some airlines, like British Airways, offer customers the chance to fund environmental projects to offset the emissions created by their trip, while others — such as Virgin Atlantic — are investing in new forms of biofuel.
European low-cost leader Ryanair says its fleet of Boeing 737-800s have already cut carbon emissions and fuel consumption in half since 2000.