The International Air Transport Association (Iata), the representative body for the global airline industry, has announced a target of having one-billion passengers fly in aircraft powered by a mixture of jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel by 2025 – seven years from now. This objective was announced on the tenth anniversary of the first flight which used a blend of jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel, which took place on February 24, 2008 and was carried out by a Boeing 747 of Virgin Atlantic, flying from London to Amsterdam.
“The momentum for sustainable aviation fuels [SAF] is now unstoppable,” highlighted Iata director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. “From one flight in 2008, we passed the threshold of 100 000 flights in 2017, and we expect to hit one-million flights during 2020.”
“But that is still just a drop in the ocean compared to what we want to achieve,” he stressed. “We want one-billion passengers to have flown on a SAF-blend flight by 2025.” The airline industry has committed itself to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to halve its net carbon emissions in comparison to 2005.
“That won’t be easy to achieve,” he cautioned. “We need governments to set a framework to incentivise production of SAF and ensure it is as attractive to produce as automotive biofuels.”
The support needed from governments to reach this target has four main elements. These are: harmonising energy and transport policies, coordinating with national departments of Agriculture and Defence; supporting supply chain research and development and supporting SAF demonstration plants; providing loan guarantees and capital grants to build SAF production plants; and, ensuring SAF production can compete with automotive biofuels production by providing the same or increased incentives.
Even so, already a number of major airlines have spent significant amounts on forward buying of 1.5-billion gallons (about 6.82-billion litres) of SAF. These include Cathay Pacific, FedEx Express, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Qantas and United. Moreover, airports at Brisbane, Los Angeles, Oslo and Stockholm are now mixing SAF into their general fuel supply.
Flights powered only by SAF could cut carbon emissions by as much as 80%. “The airline industry is clear, united and adamant that we will never use a sustainable fuel that upsets the ecological balance of the planet or depletes its natural resources,” assured de Juniac.