The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set out an aim for 1 billion passengers to travel on flights powered by a mix of jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2025.

The announcement was made on the tenth anniversary of the first flight to use such a mixture of fuel, with a Virgin Atlantic B747 flying from London to Amsterdam with sustainable fuel in one engine on 24 February, 2008. In 2017, there had been 100,000 flights operated using biofuel, and IATA expects that number to reach one million by 2020. IATA has released an infographic outlining the facts and figures of ten years of sustainable flights.

In January, Qantas celebrated the first transpacific biofuel flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne.

IATA says a flight completely powered by SAF could reduce carbon emissions for that service by up to 80 per cent.

The airline industry has made a commitment to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut net carbon emissions by 50 per cent compared to 2005. A number of carriers – including Cathay Pacific, Fedex Express, Jetblue, Lufthansa, Qantas and United – have made investments in alternative fuels by purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of SAF, according to IATA.

The association claims the current trajectory means only about half a billion passengers will have flown on a biofuel flight by 2025 and says governments can boost that number by introducing policies to help the sustainable fuel industry to increase production.

IATA points out four major steps needed to increase the use of SAF, including:

  • 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
  • Aligning transport and energy policies that are coordinated with the involvement of agriculture and military departments.

Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of IATA, commented: “We need governments to set a framework to incentivise production of SAF and ensure it is as attractive to produce as automotive biofuels.

“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.”

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