Virgin Atlantic urges government action after demonstrating SAF benefits

Virgin Atlantic is calling for urgent action from the government after the airline showed sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a “safe drop-in replacement for fossil fuel”.

The airline made its call as it revealed the results of its Flight100 experiment in November 2023, which used 100% biofuel for a flight from Heathrow to New York JFK.

It said the first transatlantic flight on 100% SAF proved the fuel used for the flight is safe to use with existing infrastructure and delivers material reductions in CO2, but can also improve local air quality, contribute to a reduction on persistent contrail formation and reduce fuel use.

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, said: “We have demonstrated that it can be done – SAF is a safe drop-in replacement for fossil fuel and can be used with today’s infrastructure.

“We are ready to fly 100% SAF, but a scale-up in production of circa 100 times from where we are today is needed to meet 10% SAF by 2030.

“We must now see urgent action from government, oil majors and private capital to invest in the production capacity needed to deliver a thriving UK SAF industry.

“We’ve proven that if enough SAF is made, we will fly it.”

Flight100 was the world’s first commercial aircraft operating across the Atlantic on 100% SAF, on a Boeing 787, using Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

The flight did not require any engine, airframe or fuel infrastructure changes and operated on safety standards equivalent to every other commercial flight.

The results show a saving of 95 tonnes of CO2, or 64% of the emissions produced from a standard flight from Heathrow to New York JFK.

A 40% reduction in non-CO2 particulate emissions suggests the use of SAF could have a “material” impact on improving local air quality at airports and reducing the formation of persistent contrails, added Virgin Atlantic.

The airline said in a statement: “Alongside technical, operational and regulatory advances, there must also be an evolution of policy.

“UK government must now match ambition with action – implementing its SAF mandate and moving at pace to invest in a revenue certainty mechanism to create a UK SAF industry, 10,000 jobs and nearly £2 billion of economic value for the UK by 2030.”

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic founder, said: “Proving that 100% SAF is operationally achievable today, with equivalent safety standards to all our other flights, was a pivotal moment but not a silver bullet.

“There is more work ahead to scale SAF at pace and whilst we cannot solve that challenge alone, Virgin Atlantic is committed to being at the forefront of the monumental effort required to decarbonise long-haul flight.”

Related Articles

British Airways to launch inaugural Tromsø service in December

Etihad Airways first-quarter earnings ‘matched the whole of 2023’

BA resumes Abu Dhabi flights after four years