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IATA’s high flying goal – 1 billion passengers on biojet flights by 2025

The International Air transport Association (IATA) is aiming for one billion passengers to fly on flights powered by a mix of jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2025. This aspiration was identified on the 10th anniversary of the first flight to blend SAF and ordinary jet fuel.“The momentum for sustainable aviation fuels is now unstoppable. We want 1 billion passengers to have flown on a SAF-blend flight by 2025," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director-General and CEO.

A decade ago, Sir Richard Branson Founder of Virgin Group hit the headlines with this photo as a Virgin Atlantic B747 prepared to make history by becoming the first aircraft flown by a commercial airline to fly on a blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and conventional jet fuel (photo courtesy Virgin Atlantic).

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 percent.

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. We want 1 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 incentivize the production of SAF and ensure it is as attractive to produce as automotive biofuels, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

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 percent compared to 2005.

A number of airlines, including Cathay Pacific, FedEx Express, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Qantas, and United, have made significant investments by forward-purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of SAF. Airports in Oslo, Stockholm, Brisbane and Los Angeles are already mixing SAF with the general fuel supply.

To decarbonise domestic aviation in Sweden would require around 2 TWh per annum of sustainable biofuels. This is approximately 1.5 percent of the annual Swedish bioenergy 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. But if governments, through effective policy, help the sustainable fuel industry to scale-up its production, it is possible that one billion passengers could experience a SAF flight by 2025.

According to IATA, the steps needed to deliver this include:

  • Allowing SAF to compete with automotive biofuels through equivalent or magnified incentives
  • Loan guarantees and capital grants for production facilities
  • Supporting SAF demonstration plants and supply chain research and development
  • Harmonized transport and energy policies, coordinated with the involvement of agriculture and military departments.

Acknowledging that some sources of biofuels for land transport have been criticized for their environmental credentials, de Juniac emphasized strongly the determination of the industry to only use truly sustainable sources for its alternative fuels.

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, de Juniac said.

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