Ten years since the first flight took off on a mix of jet and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), IATA is aiming for one billion passengers to be carried by flights powered by SAF blends by 2025.
“The momentum for sustainable aviation fuels is now unstoppable. 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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
On February 24, 2008, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flew from London to Amsterdam with sustainable aviation fuel in one of its engines. The flight demonstrated the viability of drop-in biofuels, which can be blended with traditional jet fuel, using existing airport infrastructure.
A flight completely powered by sustainable fuel has the potential to reduce the carbon emissions of that flight by up to 80 per cent, according to IATA.
The push to increase uptake of SAF is being driven by the airline industry’s commitment to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut net carbon emissions by 50 per cent compared to 2005.
A number of airlines, including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Qantas, and United, have made significant investments by forward-purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of SAF. Moreover, airports in Oslo, Stockholm, Brisbane and Los Angeles are already mixing SAF with the general fuel supply.
On the present uptake trajectory, it is anticipated that half a billion passengers will have flown on a SAF-blend powered flight by 2025.
“We want one billion passengers to have flown on a SAF-blend flight by 2025. That won’t be easy to achieve. We need governments to set a framework to incentivise production of SAF and ensure it is as attractive to produce as automotive biofuels,” de Juniac said.
For the billionth passenger to be carried on an SAF-blend powered flight by 2025, IATA says the following needs to happen: allow SAF to compete with automotive biofuels through equivalent or magnified incentives; provide loan guarantees and capital grants for production facilities; support SAF demonstration plants and supply chain research and development; harmonised transport and energy policies, coordinated with the involvement of agriculture and military departments.
Acknowledging that some sources of land transport biofuels have been criticised for their environmental credentials, de Juniac emphasised the determination of the industry to only use truly sustainable sources for its alternative fuels.