Virgin targets clean fuel conversion by 2020

VIRGIN Airlines has set an ambitious goal of using only clean-burning fuels on all flights by 2020, in a bid to make air travel one of the greenest industries.

Speaking at the inaugural Creating Climate Wealth Workshops Summit’s press conference today, Virgin Group founder and chairman, Richard Branson, said: “The airline industry is a good example (of how an industry) can minimise environmental impact by reducing carbon output, which can in turn save a lot of money.

“If you use clean fuels, the government does not have the excuse to tax you, and when you gain competitiveness over dirty fuels, you can reduce the cost of fuel, which will reduce the cost of your tickets and (result in) more people wanting to travel with you.”

Virgin Atlantic became the first commercial airline to partly power a flight by biofuel in 2008 when it flew from London to Amsterdam on fuel obtained from Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts.

Virgin Atlantic is now piloting a low-carbon jet fuel derived from waste gases in New Zealand, and the Group hopes to see it utilised on commercial routes between Shanghai and New Delhi to Heathrow in a few years, according to David Addison, research executive, Virgin Earth Challenge under Virgin Group.

Addison noted that “with more intelligent customers today who care about the planet, they will likely want to travel with airlines who pride themselves on renewable fuel”.

Branson – also the founder of the non-profit Carbon War Room, which gathers entrepreneurs together to implement climate change solutions – called for more airlines to share their expertise in reducing carbon emissions.

He added that the latest member of Carbon War Room was AirAsia Group CEO, Tony Fernandes, who accepted Branson’s offer when they were on board an AirAsia X flight yesterday.

Separately, Virgin Australia has integrated its recently acquired Skywest Airlines to form a new domestic carrier based in Western Australia. Named Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, the new airline will operate 32 aircraft deployed to 41 destinations.

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